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UK lockdown: Gove tries to clarify confusion over coronavirus rules

Ministers have attempted to clarify the rules around Boris Johnson’s lockdown, amid confusion over who is allowed to travel to work, whether children can visit separated parents and what counts as exercise.

Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, gave more guidance on Tuesday morning on the unprecedented restrictions announced by the prime minister, which will be enforced by police.

Under the rules, people must stay at home unless they have to leave the house to work, to get essential supplies of food or medicine, to help the vulnerable or for one period of exercise a day.

What do the new restrictions involve?

People in the UK will only be allowed to leave their home for the following purposes:

  • Shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible
  • One form of exercise a day – for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household
  • Any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
  • Travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home

Police will have the powers to enforce the rules, including through fines and dispersing gatherings. To ensure compliance with the instruction to stay at home, the government will:

  • Close all shops selling non-essential goods, including clothing and electronic stores and other premises including libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms, and places of worship
  • Stop all gatherings of more than two people in public – excluding people you live with
  • Stop all social events, including weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies, but excluding funerals

Parks will remain open for exercise, but gatherings will be dispersed.

The biggest confusion was over whether workers should count their jobs as essential, with construction workers, taxi drivers and tradespeople unsure. Some retail workers, such as staff at Sports Direct, were still called into their jobs by employers despite the order for non-essential retail to close. Sports Direct later changed its mind and said it was closing its stores.

UK coronavirus cases

Gove said construction workers should still be going to work while staying two metres apart and tradespeople, such as plumbers and electricians, could attend emergencies in people’s homes.

He said it was “unhelpful” and “wrong” for stores such as Sports Direct to remain open to sell sports and leisure wear, arguing that people generally had the appropriate clothing to go for a run or walk already.

Non-essential shopping deliveries – such as clothes and toys – would be allowed to continue.

Number of deaths at date of lockdown

Gove issued a series of stark warnings about the consequences of flouting the ban. Shown pictures on Sky News of construction workers gathering close together, he said: “Unless you stay at home, then the people you love most may die.”

He said help for self-employed people would be outlined “later” by Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, because many of them were still packing on to public transport on Tuesday in the absence of financial support to compensate them for loss of their work.

Symptoms are defined by the NHS as either:

  • a high temperature – you feel hot to touch on your chest or back
  • a new continuous cough – this means you’ve started coughing repeatedly

NHS advice is that anyone with symptoms should stay at home for at least 7 days.

If you live with other people, they should stay at home for at least 14 days, to avoid spreading the infection outside the home.

After 14 days, anyone you live with who does not have symptoms can return to their normal routine. But, if anyone in your home gets symptoms, they should stay at home for 7 days from the day their symptoms start. Even if it means they’re at home for longer than 14 days.

If you live with someone who is 70 or over, has a long-term condition, is pregnant or has a weakened immune system, try to find somewhere else for them to stay for 14 days.

If you have to stay at home together, try to keep away from each other as much as possible.

After 7 days, if you no longer have a high temperature you can return to your normal routine.

If you still have a high temperature, stay at home until your temperature returns to normal.

If you still have a cough after 7 days, but your temperature is normal, you do not need to continue staying at home. A cough can last for several weeks after the infection has gone.

Staying at home means you should:

  • not go to work, school or public areas
  • not use public transport or taxis
  • not have visitors, such as friends and family, in your home
  • not go out to buy food or collect medicine – order them by phone or online, or ask someone else to drop them off at your home

You can use your garden, if you have one. You can also leave the house to exercise – but stay at least 2 metres away from other people.

If you have symptoms of coronavirus, use the NHS 111 coronavirus service to find out what to do.

Source: NHS England on 23 March 2020

There was also confusion over the movement of children of divorced and separated parents, after contact between households was banned.

Gove initially suggested contact would not be allowed but he later corrected himself, saying children under 18 would be permitted to move between the households of their separated parents.

On different types of exercise, he said people would be allowed to run, walk or go to an allotment, but not to do more social activities, such as playing golf.

Asked why Johnson had changed his mind and introduced more draconian restrictions, Gove told the BBC’s Today programme: “We are living in unprecedented times. All of us recognise this is a land of liberty but we are living in a national emergency.”

Labour broadly welcomed the lockdown but some opposition politicians suggested it should go further.

Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, said there had been a difference of opinion between him and the government, with City Hall pushing for construction sites to shut down.

Rebecca Long-Bailey, the Labour leadership candidate and shadow business secretary, said people should not just be allowed to “order nice things online” that were not essential.


“There needs to be a tightly defined list of essential workplaces,” she told the Today programme.

She also highlighted the uncertainty faced by self-employed people, who do not get the same 80% of salary support as the employed.

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Written by Angle News

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