U.K. shutters all pubs in bid to contain coronavirus outbreak

Restaurants, cafes, gyms and nightclubs will also close, Prime Minster Boris Johnson said.
Image: BRITAIN-HEALTH-VIRUS-RETAIL-PUBS
Customers outside a pub in London on Friday, hours before a government order to close went into effect.Daniel Leal-Olivas / AFP - Getty Images

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By Henry Austin

Pubs may be a staple of British culture but Boris Johnson's government announced Friday that they all must close as the U.K. attempts to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

Cafes, restaurants, nightclubs and gyms were also ordered to close on Friday for the foreseeable future.

"The speed of our eventual recovery depends entirely on our collective ability to get on top of the virus now, and that means we have to take the next steps on scientific advice," Johnson said at his daily COVID-19 news conference.

He added, "We need now to push down further on that curve of transmission between us."

As a result, he said his government was "collectively telling cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants to close tonight as soon as they reasonably can and not to open tomorrow."

"Though, to be clear, they can continue to provide take out services. We're also telling nightclubs, theaters, cinemas, gyms and leisure centers to close on the same timescale."

The announcement came as British Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a new emergency package aimed at protecting jobs and wages.

Sunak said he would defer the next quarter of VAT payments for firms, until the end of June, in a 30 billion pound ($39 billion) injection into the economy.

He added the government will pick up "most of" the wages of workers.

"I have a responsibility to make sure that we protect, as far as possible, people's jobs and incomes," he said. "Today I can announce that in the first time of our history, the government is going to step in and help pay people's wages.

"We're setting up a new coronavirus job retention scheme. Any employer in the country small or large, charitable or nonprofit, will be eligible for the scheme."

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock promised that people with serious health conditions would receive further advice about COVID-19.

As of Friday 177 people had died from the respiratory illness in the U.K., with around 4 in 10 of all deaths so far in London. This was up by 40 from Thursday.