A cabinet minister has said the UK’s coronavirus outbreak is “frightening”, it was reported, as Boris Johnson faced questions over his new measures to tackle its spread.
On Monday evening, BBC Newsnight quoted an anonymous minister as saying: "We are as well placed as we can be but we are sailing into a storm. It’s all a bit frightening.”
It came after the prime minister took the unprecedented step of telling the country to remain at home to tackle the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.
Johnson told the public they must only leave their homes for four reasons, including to shop for basic necessities and to perform one form of exercise a day.
They can also leave home for any medical need or travel to work if “absolutely necessary”.
He also banned public gatherings of more than two people and ordered the closure of non-essential shops.
The PM has been criticised for his confusing message on coronavirus in the past few weeks, and there has been a demand for greater clarity on his new measures.
Jeremy Corbyn said: “There now needs to be clear guidance to employers and workers about which workplaces should close – and the government must close the loopholes to give security to all workers, including the self-employed, as well as renters and mortgage holders.”
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Labour MP David Lammy said: “I fully support the prime minister introducing an enforced lockdown. I only wish he had done so sooner.”
Johnson has repeatedly delivered mixed messages during the coronavirus outbreak.
At the beginning of this month, he said he had no problems shaking hands with people during a hospital visit, and continued to tell the public to simply wash their hands.
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Two days before Mother’s Day, he said he hoped to be able to see his mother that day, before eventually ruling it out and advising others to stay at home.
On Sunday, Johnson said he wanted people to be able to go to parks and “enjoy themselves”, but on Monday night he finally told the British public to stay at home.
He said the new measures will be “under constant review” and will be considered for relaxation in three weeks if the evidence allows it.
On Tuesday, Sir Peter Fahy, the former chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, said “there is a huge amount of clarification needed”.
He said clear outlines are needed on a range of issues such as the definition of a vulnerable person and what counts as exercise.
He told BBC Breakfast: “There is no way really that the police can enforce this using powers.
“It has got to be because the public hugely support it, that there is peer pressure and there is continuing clarification from government about the message.
"If you compare us to Italy, we have about half the number of police officers that they have. Our police officers are already very stretched.
“There is no way that this can be achieved through enforcement alone. It will have to be that the public hugely accept it and the government continues to issue clarification and reinforces the message."