Boris Johnson has drafted in the army to organise food and medicine deliveries in an extraordinary move to protect 1.5 million of the most vulnerable from the deadly coronavirus outbreak.
Boris Johnson said the drastic measure was needed to help “shield” the most at-risk people who should now stay at home for 12 weeks.
The dramatic intervention came as the Prime Minister gave the public a final warning to take social distancing measures seriously otherwise he will place the UK into lockdown within 24 hours.
Mr Johnson said he will enforce Italian-style curfews after tens of thousands continued to flout anti-coronavirus advice.
Ramping up Britain’s defence against the deadly outbreak the PM said he would act to close open spaces, parks and playgrounds and limit all movement outside homes if people continued to act foolishly.
His stark warning came as the UK death toll rose by 48 in just 24 hours to 281 people, with more than 5,600 confirmed cases.
One of the deaths included a person aged 18 with an underlying health condition.
They are thought to be the youngest person with the virus to have died in the UK so far.
Despite repeated warnings people across the UK flocked to beaches and parks up and down the country yesterday to take a stroll with their loved ones for Mother’s Day, despite social distancing advice from the government warning people to stay at least two metres apart.
Mr Johnson said that even though he understood the physical and mental health benefits of open spaces, he would take drastic steps to protect health.
He suggested the UK could copy some of the more extreme lockdowns in other parts of Europe, such as Italy, Spain and France.
“I don’t think you need to use your imagination much to see where we might have to go,” he said.
“We will think about this very, very actively in the next 24 hours.
“We need to think about the kinds of measures that we have seen elsewhere, other countries that have been forced to bring in restrictions on people’s movements altogether.
“I don’t want to do that because I have tried to explain the public health benefits.”
“Even if you think you are personally invulnerable, there are plenty of people you can infect,” he said.
“Take this advice seriously. Follow it. Because it is absolutely crucial.”
“We will keep the implementation of these measures under review and of course we will bring forward further measures if it is necessary.”
Mr Johnson was at pains to hammer home the point, adding: “If people cannot make use of parks and playgrounds responsibly, in a way that observes the two-metre rule, then of course we are going to have to look at further measures.”
The warning comes after pictures showed people across parts of the UK visiting parks and open spaces in large numbers over the weekend.
Snowdonia National Park said the area “experienced its busiest ever visitor day in living memory” on Saturday, with other beaches and mountain summits busy.
In London, people were still out and about despite criticism from major Sadiq Khan who said Londoners needed to stay in to save lives.
Cumbria Police said despite Government advice to avoid non-essential travel, the Lake District and other tourist hotspots in the UK were experiencing an “influx” of visitors.
As the outbreak in the UK continues to accelerate a massive new effort has been unleashed to help protect 1.5 million of the most vulnerable people in England.
They will be sent letters by the NHS “strongly advising” them not to go out for at least 12 weeks from today.
A network of community hubs is being set up across the UK to ensure the delivery of food supplies at-risk people with serious medical condition.
Those at-risk people include those with specific cancers, severe respiratory conditions and people who have received organ transplants.
Councils, pharmacists and members of the Armed Forces will help this work and there will be opportunities for members of the public to volunteer.
Setting out the support being arranged for people with health problems, communities secretary Robert Jenrick said: “We will be creating a network of local hubs, covering the whole country.
“This will require a major national effort in a very short period of time.
“Medicines will be delivered by community pharmacies. Groceries and essential household items will be delivered by local councils and food distributors, working with supermarkets, to ensure that nobody needs to worry about getting the food and essential items that they’ll need.
“These parcels will be left on the doorstep.
“The government, the food industry community pharmacists, local councils and emergency services are working round the clock to get this scheme off the ground, members of the armed forces are already supporting this effort, including some of the finest military planners in the world.”
Mr Johnson said that the “shielding” strategy would “do more than any other single measure that we are setting out to save life, to reduce infection and to slow the spread of the disease”.
Speaking at the Downing Street briefing, England’s deputy chief medical adviser Dr Jenny Harries said around 12 percent of adult critical care beds in hospitals in England are currently occupied by patients with the virus.
That number is expected to rise drastically, she added.