PM Boris Johnson announces 'stay at home' order for at least the next three weeks

Prime Minister Boris Johnson just announced a new lockdown order for the United Kingdom. Johnson said people should not be leaving their homes except in a few specific cases:

Though huge numbers are complying – and I thank you all – the time has now come for us all to do more. From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction – you must stay at home.

Because the critical thing we must do is stop the disease spreading between households. That is why people will only be allowed to leave their home for the following very limited 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; and
  • travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home.

That’s all – these are the only reasons you should leave your home. You should not be meeting friends. If your friends ask you to meet, you should say no.

You should not be meeting family members who do not live in your home. You should not be going shopping except for essentials like food and medicine – and you should do this as little as you can. And use food delivery services where you can.

If you don’t follow the rules, the police will have the powers to enforce them, including through fines and dispersing gatherings.

Johnson took the first step toward a lockdown last Friday when he ordered all cafes, bars, restaurants, theaters, gyms and nightclubs to close for business. But as recently as this morning, some were posting photos of London Underground trains packed with people:

Parks were also full of people carrying on as usual this weekend:

Clearly, not everyone was staying home. Scenes like this may have helped to prompt today’s order which will shutter all non-essential businesses. The government has issued two pages of specific guidance which you can read here. One person summed up today’s announcement with a callback to that great Boris Johnson Brexit video:

Interestingly, there is some unease among police about being asked to break up groups of people who are not abiding by the lockdown order:

It is seen as anathema to the British model of policing by consent, and officers being citizens in uniform: “There is absolute reluctance,” said one source. “It’s a total change of policing style.”

Officers will hope to use “persuasion” to convince those not complying, and want to avoid flashpoints.

With police forces expected to be stretched as officers go sick or have to self isolate, chiefs do not want to have to devote massive resources to enforcing the lockdown – and may not have them.

Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, is begging the public to go along with this:

One thing I would say straight off the bat to the public is: ‘Please, please, you’ve got to come with us on this one, you’ve got to help with this, otherwise it’s going to get really, really impossible’…

It’s interesting that in the UK you see a lot of people following the guidance and staying home but once again the people who are out exercising or just soaking up the sun in the park seem to feel themselves exempt. I suspect there’s some “moral licensing” going on here which also partly explains why San Francisco’s Embarcadero was crowded with joggers and people exercising during their lockdown and perhaps it partly explains why Florida’s beaches were crowded with fit young people as well. The idea of moral licensing is that people give themselves a pass based upon their own self-conception or identity. So if you see yourself as healthy and fit you are more likely to give yourself a pass on the lockdown, especially if you are engaging in otherwise health behavior like jogging. That’s why Johnson has to limit exercise outings to once per day in this announcement. Jogging does not make you immune.

I guess we’ll find out by tomorrow morning whether this is taken any more seriously.