Countries in Europe last week were growing frustrated with Britain’s response to the coronavirus epidemic, with one group of Italian MEPs even penning a letter to the European Commission demanding sanctions for the UK not acting quick enough. But, on Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson shocked the nation as he brought in restrictions across the country – in a bid to try to halt social contact, and the spread of the deadly coronavirus. Speaking at Downing Street, the Prime Minister pleaded with Britons not to head out on Friday evening, and to stay indoors to try to stop the spread of Covid-19, which has killed 233 people in the UK – as of Saturday evening.
The Prime Minister told pubs, bars, restaurants, cinemas and leisure centres to shut – to try to stop the gathering of people.
Mr Johnson said: “You may be tempted to go out tonight and I say to you please don’t, you may think that you are invincible…But you can still be a carrier of the disease and pass it on”.
But, reports emerging in the French media suggest the Prime Minister’s hand may have been forced by President Emmanuel Macron.
Writing in Liberation, a French journalist has suggested Mr Macron phoned the Prime Minister on Friday – warning him that if stricter measures were not implemented in Britain, there would be no choice but for the border between the UK and France to be shut.
Reacting to the story on social media, the BBC’s Economics Editor, Faisal Islam, wrote: “Senior French journo briefed that Macron phoned PM on Friday and said that if UK did not impose serious shutdown measures, French would have no choice but to close border to travellers from UK, & were ready to do so Friday. Says Elysee refers to UK policy as ‘benign neglect’.”
Reports suggest that not only would France have shut its borders to the UK – but other European countries may also have quickly followed suit.
Many countries in Europe are effectively in lockdown to try to halt the spread of coronavirus.
Italy, France, Germany and Spain have all issued strict measures on residents with Europe now the epicentre of the deadly virus.
On Saturday, France reported 112 new Covid-19 deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the total in the country to 562. The number of coronavirus cases recorded in France also rose to 14,459.
Italy remains the worst-hit country in Europe and on Saturday confirmed an additional 793 deaths in the past 24 hours due to Covid-19 – the biggest daily increase so far, bringing the total of those who have died to 4,825.
Despite encouraging Britons to avoid pubs, restaurants and bars, earlier in the week, Mr Johnson’s handling of the response to the coronavirus crisis has come under fire.
And, as pressure mounted, on Friday the Prime Minister issued strict new draconian measures on the UK.
“We need now to push down further on that curve of transmission between us,” the Prime Minister said, adding that the shut down had been agreed with the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
He said: “We are collectively telling cafés, pubs, bars, 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, theatres, cinemas, gyms and leisure centres to close on the same timescale.
“Now, these are places where people come together, and indeed the whole purpose of these businesses is to bring people together. But the sad thing is that today for now, at least physically, we need to keep people apart.”
Signalling his reluctance, the Prime Minister added: “I know how difficult this is, how it seems to go against the freedom-loving instincts of the British people.