Sunday 22 March 2020 5:53 pm

Coronavirus: Boris Johnson officially announces quarantine of 1.5m people

Quarantining 1.5m Britons vulnerable to coronavirus will do “more than any other single measure to save life”, according to Boris Johnson.

The Prime Minister has officially unveiled the government’s latest measure to combat Covid-19 at today’s press conference, while also telling people to follow the government’s social distancing advice.

Read more: Only 46 new cases of coronavirus confirmed in China

The measures will force people over the age of 70, pregnant women and those with some underlying health conditions to stay at home for 12 weeks.

They will receive letters this week to inform them of their need to quarantine themselves.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick said a “network of local hubs” would be created to ensure that people who live alone would still have access to food and medicines.

Old-age or medical carers will also be able to still visit the 1.5m quarantined people, while anyone who lives with those affected by the new measure will be able to leave the house, but must still follow social distancing measures.

“We will be creating a network for local hubs covering the whole country,” Jenrick said.

“This will require a major national effort in a very short period of time.

“Medicines will be delivered by community pharmacists, groceries and essential household items by local councils and food distributors, working with supermarkets to ensure nobody needs to worry about getting the food and essential items they’ll need.

“These parcels will be left on the doorstep.

“Members of the armed forces are already supporting this effort.”

Johnson also emphasised the government’s instructions for people to stop socialising in public places.

The government has told people they can go outside to exercise if they are alone and keep a distance from other people.

However, videos emerged on social media today of people socialising in groups in parks today across the country.

The Prime Minister said he did not want to impose a complete ban on people leaving their homes to exercise, but would be forced to do so if people do not comply with government instructions.

“It is very important for people’s mental and physical well-being that they should be able to get out and exercise if they possibly can,” he said.

“Many, many people do not have access to private green space where they can do that.

“That’s why parks and open spaces are so crucial.

“You’ve got to do this in line with the advice, you’ve got to follow the social distancing rule, keep 2 metres apart.

“Otherwise if you don’t do it responsibly, if you don’t exercise responsibly in the parks and green spaces then there is going to be no doubt we will have to bring forward further measures and we are keeping that under constant review.”

The announcement came as the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK reached 5,683, with 281 deaths as of 9am this morning.

The UK’s death rate is increasing at a faster rate than Italy and China, the two worst affected countries by Covid-19, were at the same stage of their outbreaks.

London has been disproportionately affected by the virus, accounting for almost 40 per cent of the country’s confirmed cases and a disproportionate amount of deaths.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan told the BBC that “people will die” in the capital if social distancing advice isn’t followed.

Read more: UK coronavirus: Death toll jumps to 281

“I’m quite clear – if we don’t keep our social distance, people will die,” he said.

“Unless people stay at home, unless people stop using public transport unless it’s essential, unless people stop interacting with each other, more people will die.”