Policy Brief on UK Prime Minister’s National Address on Covid-19 Measures

UK Prime Minister’s National Address on Covid-19 Measures

By Aarthi Raghavan | March 24 2020, 7:10 PM SGT

 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the people of United Kingdom, on 23 March at 20:30 GMT, to give them an update of the latest government measures in fighting against Covid-19. He started with an overview of the situation by stating that, the disease will inevitably overburden the health infrastructure leading potentially to a shortfall in ventilators, hospital beds, doctors and nurses. It is when countries have fantastic healthcare systems, he said, that it is “the real moment of danger”. To put it simply, if too many people fell ill at any one time then the National Health Service (NHS), he believes, will be unable to handle the situation. This in turn may lead more people to die from the virus and other illnesses and hence “it is vital to slow the spread of the disease”.

By more people staying at home it would be possible to reduce the number of people getting treatment in hospitals at any one time, which in turn will help protect the NHS’s ability to cope and save more lives. While thanking a lot of people for complying with the government directives, he observes that its time everyone complied with it seriously. He has strictly urged citizens to stay at home since it will help stop the spread of the disease between households and listed the following purposes for which people will be allowed to leave their homes:

  1. Shopping for necessities, as infrequently as possible
  2. One form of exercise a day, for example a run or cycle, alone or with other members of the family
  3. Any care to provide for the vulnerable person, and
  4. Traveling to and from work and only if it is necessary and can’t be done from home

The PM has also urged people to not meet friends, or family members who don’t live in their homes, and urged to use food delivery services wherever possible. He has warned that if people do not follow the rules then the police will have the powers to impose fines and disperse gatherings.

To ensure greater compliance, the government in its 3-week lockdown order, with immediate effect, will close all shops that sell non-essential products including clothing, electronic products and other places like libraries, playgrounds, gyms and places of worship. The government will also ban all gatherings of more than 2 people, excluding household members. He has also stated that the government will stop all events including weddings, baptisms, etc. but excluding funerals. Parks will remain open only for exercise and gatherings at such places will be dispersed.

While stating that no PM would want to take such measures, he acknowledged that he is aware of the disruption the measures will cause to people’s lives and jobs. However, it is to mitigate these effects that the government has initiated a program to support workers and businesses. PM Johnson has also assured that the government will constantly review the measures and look again every 3 weeks to relax them, provided the evidences are in favor. However, at present he believes that there are “just no easy options and the way ahead is hard, and many lives will be lost”.

PM has shown hope in the NHS which has brought back 7,500 former clinicians. He also reiterated how the delay in the progress of the disease, as a result of citizens staying home, can help the government to buy new equipment, accelerate search for treatments, undertake pioneering work on a vaccine, and help procure millions of testing kits to control the disease. He thanked everyone who are fighting the disease on the front lines and emphasized the role that every citizen will need to play to fight against this national disaster.

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The UK currently has a death toll of 335. There have been 83,945 tests to date, with 6,650 confirmed cases. The NHS has identified 1.5 million most at-risk people in the country (200,000 in Scotland, 70,000 in Wales and 40,000 in Northern Ireland) and has initiated efforts to alert these groups to strictly stay at home for the next 12 weeks.

Image source Anadolu Agency

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