‘Nothing is off the table’: Government considers new action to keep people inside

Ministers are examining the curfews and restrictions imposed in Europe as a method of controlling the spread of coronavirus, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.

Monday, 23rd March 2020, 2:47 pm
Updated Monday, 23rd March 2020, 2:48 pm

He said the ‘unpleasant and very difficult times’ meant that it was possible the authorities, including the police, could be required to order people to follow the rules on social distancing.

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And he said that ‘nothing is off the table’ if further curbs on people's freedoms were required to slow the progress of Covid-19 through the UK.

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Matlock Bath

The Government face pressure from Labour to commit to more stringent measures to enforce social distancing, with shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth saying it is a ‘matter of urgency’.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared shocked at the prospect of the police being brought in to enforce coronavirus restrictions when asked about it at a press conference yesterday.

The government is considering curfews as part of restrictions to reduce the spread of coronavirus

But Mr Hancock said officers had already been given the powers to force the closure of bars and restaurants and indicated that other restrictions would be considered.

The Health Secretary condemned the ‘very selfish’ behaviour of people who were ignoring social-distancing rules.

Asked whether tighter controls would be imposed, he told BBC Radio 4's Today: “We are, of course, monitoring how much people are following those rules.

“We will act if we need to.

“As Health Secretary it is my job to protect life and the way that we protect life from a virus like this is to stop its spread and the way that you stop its spread is by people not interacting with others.”

Measures imposed across Europe have included curfews or preventing groups of more than two people gathering in public.

“Nothing is off the table,” Mr Hancock said.

“Of course we are looking at what other European countries are doing.

“There are a series of different measures that other countries have taken, now they are further down the curve - they have higher numbers of cases than we do here - but that means that we can act sooner and earlier in this epidemic.”

Mr Johnson has faced criticism for his approach to the crisis and his reluctance to impose draconian lockdown measures of the type seen in other countries.