Pubs, gyms, leisure centres, restaurants, cafes and cinemas will close across Britain to stop the spread of coronavirus.
The government had avoided ordering establishments to close even as the number of COVID-19 cases in the UK climbed to 3,269.
Boris Johnson had earlier urged Brits to avoid going out to pubs, clubs and restaurants but stopped short of officially closing them.
That has now changed, with the Prime Minister announcing that all such premises must close "as soon as they reasonably can" and must not open tomorrow.
Johnson said the new measures are just "enforcing" the advice already given to the public in an effort to reduce social contact by 75%, estimated to be what's necessary to lower transmission rates.
"Licensing arrangements will make it relatively simply to do, should that be necessary," he said, but added he believes most business owners will comply with the closures.
Live updates on COVID-19 cases near you
- London: 1,221
- South East: 340
- Midlands: 282
- North East and Yorkshire: 194
- North West: 220
- East of England: 147
- South West: 140
Northern Ireland: 177
The Chancellor Rishi Sunak has also announced a new job retention scheme to help people who lose their jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic. The scheme, in which the government will step in and pay up to 80% of people's wages from March 1, will be in place for three months but may be extended further.
Sunak says he is placing "no limit" on the amount of funds available for grants.
There has been concern many people have continued to socialise in pubs and attend gyms around the city, ignoring official advice to stay at home to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
Tom Stainer, chief executive of consumer group Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), said: "If pubs across London close to stop people gathering, it is important that the Government makes clear what services they can still offer, such as allowing people to take away food and drink.
"The Government also needs to reassure those who work in pubs what measures will be put in place to secure their jobs and businesses.
"Camra, along with the rest of the industry, will continue to push for a wider package of support."
Coronavirus: Brits told they must social distance for a year to stop disease
Camra has set up a central register to let people know what pubs are offering during the crisis, and is working with a crowdfunding initiative to support small businesses.
A spokeswoman for Better Leisure, which runs leisure centres and gyms across the capital, said it would not speculate on reports until the Government made an official statement.
She added: "While the majority of the leisure centres we operate remain open, where our local authority partners have requested that we close facilities, we have fully supported the decision taken and are currently implementing closures in some areas of the country.
"The health of our customers and staff remains of paramount importance."
The government was reportedly braced to announce the ban on Thursday but pulled back.
The UK's chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance had earlier said more effort was needed to maintain social distancing if there is any hope of lowering the rate of transmission.
"Unless everybody looks at the measures introduced by the government on social distancing it doesn't have the effect," he said.
"So what we absolutely shouldn't encourage is the idea that young people can somehow ignore it because they're going to be fine.
"The mixing in pubs and restaurants that we've said are really a part of allowing the disease to spread needs to stop."
Source: Read Full Article