Coronavirus: Revellers around the UK squeeze in last night out after Boris Johnson orders shutdown

Saturday 21st March 2020 14:15 GMT

Tens of thousands of pubs, bars, theatres and restaurants across the country have been told to shut as the government battles to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Boris Johnson ordered the dramatic closing down of hospitality and entertainment outlets amid fears the NHS will be unable to cope unless the COVID-19 outbreak is brought under control.

Scientists have warned "social distancing" measures will have to stay in place for months, with the threat of the restrictions being phased in and out until the end of the year.

It has left many of the venues where Britons socialise wondering when they will be able to open their doors again.

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On Friday night, thousands of people took to the bars, pubs and restaurants all around the country before the long term closing time was enforced.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the closures at a Downing Street news conference on Friday afternoon following reports that many people were ignoring an earlier voluntary appeal to stay at home.

It is not clear how the measures - which are supported by the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - will be enforced.

Mr Johnson has indicated it could be done through the licensing system, which could mean that licensees lose their ability to operate if they breach the restrictions.

The number who have died from COVID-19 in the UK now has risen to 177.

In the same press conference in which Mr Johnson announced the closures, Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a scheme to allow employers to keep on workers, with the government vowing to pay up to 80% of their wages.

He said employers would be able to apply to HM Revenue and Customs to keep staff on up to £2,500 a month.

The plan was broadly welcomed by trade unions and employers as offering a vital lifeline amid growing fears of a major recession.

Emma McClarkin, the chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said: "We stand ready to play our part in the fight against Covid-19 and in the process protecting our communities and employees.

"As a sector employing nearly one million people, the Chancellor's support package announced today on staff wages will safeguard thousands of livelihoods and help closed pubs try to get through this difficult period.

"We stand ready to work with the government to ensure that the support is accessible as fast as possible."

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