But the seismic move prompted questions about how people would be affected. Shortly after the prime minister’s dramatic address to the nation, the government published its official guidance, which amounted to one-and-half pages.
More questions are likely to follow, but here’s what the guidance does tell us:
Stay at home
The government is clear there are only four reasons why you should leave your home.
The first is shopping for basic necessities, which includes food and medicine and must be “as infrequent as possible”
You can also leave to take one form of exercise a day, such as a run, walk, or cycle. But it is restricted to exercising alone or with members of your household.
The third reason is a medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person (this includes moving children under 18 between their parents’ homes).
Finally, travelling to and from work is acceptable, but only “where this absolutely cannot be done from home”.
The guidance is explicit that these are “exceptions”, and even then people must keep it to a minimum and ensure they are two-metres apart from anyone outside of their household.
Shops and community spaces closed
Tens of thousands of non-essential shops are to close. Other premises being shuttered are libraries, playgrounds, outdoor gyms and places of worship.
Hotels and campsites will now join pubs, cafes and restaurants in being closed to slow the disease’s spread.
And, while parks will remain open for exercise, all social events including weddings and baptisms will be stopped. Funerals, however, can continue.
The guidance details closures of:
All non-essential retail stores: this will include clothing and electronics stores; hair, beauty and nail salons; and outdoor and indoor 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, except for funerals attended by immediate families.
Hotels, hostels, bed and breakfasts, campsites, caravan parks, and boarding houses for commercial and leisure use (excluding permanent residents and key workers).
Later in the evening, further guidance was issued outlining what should close and what could stay open.
Places to remain open include food shops, health shops, pharmacies. petrol stations, bicycle shops, home and hardware shops, launderettes and dry cleaners, garages, car rentals, pet shops, corner shops, newsagents, post offices and banks.
It added: “Takeaway and delivery facilities should remain open and operational. This means people can continue to enter premises to access takeaway services, including delivery drivers. Planning regulation will be changed to enable restaurants, cafes and pubs which do not currently offer delivery and hot food takeaway to do so.”
Gatherings of more than two people in public
All gatherings of more than two people in public are forbidden, including all social events, weddings and baptisms. Places of worship such as churches and mosques must also shut, except to host for funerals.
The two exceptions are:
Where the gathering is of a group of people who live together. This means that a parent can, for example, take their children to the shops if there is no option to leave them at home.
Where the gathering is essential for work purposes. But workers should be trying to “minimise all meetings and other gatherings in the workplace”.
Johnson’s address was notable for its reference to police having powers to issue fines and break up gatherings of those who flout the rules. Government officials later said fines will start at £30, but warned they would escalate.
The guidance states: “The government will be ensuring the police and other relevant authorities have the powers to enforce them, including through fines and dispersing gatherings where people do not comply.”