New social distancing measures to help reduce the spread of coronavirus were announced by the Government last night.
People have to stay at home except for very limited purposes, while non-essential shops have been ordered to close. Community spaces are being shut and no more than two people should gather in public, unless they are members of the same household.
Police have been given extra powers to enforce the new measures if residents fail to comply, and officers will be dispersing gatherings and issuing fines if necessary. The measures will be reviewed in three weeks' time. Deborah Harkins, Director of Public Health for Dudley Council, said:
"Reducing day-to-day contact with other people is the most important thing we can all do to slow the spread of the coronavirus. That is why the Government has introduced these new social distancing measures, and they should be followed by everyone.
"Separate advice is available for individuals or households who are isolating, and for the most vulnerable who need to be shielded."
People should only leave the house:
- To shop for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible.
- For one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household.
- For any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.
- To travel to and from work, but only where work cannot be done from home.
When leaving the house, you should ensure you are two metres apart from anyone, other than members of your own household. If you are a 'critical worker', or your child has been identified as vulnerable, you can continue to take your children to school.
The Government has also ordered non-essential shops and public spaces to be closed.
Last week, the Government ordered certain businesses - including pubs, cinemas and theatres - to close. It has now extended this requirement to cover all non-essential retail stores (include clothing and electronics stores and hair, beauty and nail salons), markets (excluding food markets), libraries, community centres and youth centres, indoor and outdoor leisure facilities (such as bowling alleys, arcades and soft play facilities), communal places within parks (such as playgrounds, sports courts and outdoor gyms), places of worship, hotels, hostels, bed and breakfasts, campsites and caravan parks.
To make sure people are staying at home and apart from each other, the Government is also stopping all public gatherings of more than two people. The only exceptions to this are where the gathering is of a group of people from the same household, or where the gathering is essential for work purposes – but workers should be trying to minimise all meetings and other gatherings in the workplace.
In addition, the Government is stopping social events, including weddings, baptisms and other religious ceremonies. Funerals can continue, but can only be attended by immediate family members.