In a press conference today (16 March), Johnson also mentioned a particular focus on London with highest concentration of cases of Covid-19.
Johnson said: “If no one in your household has symptoms, there is more we need you to do now. Now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others and to stop all unnecessary travel. We need people to start working from home where they possibly can and you should avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues.
“We should all only use the NHS when we really need to and please go online rather than use NHS 111.
“This advice about avoiding all unnecessary social contact is particularly important for people over 70, for pregnant women and those with health conditions.
“If you ask why are we doing this now, the answer is we are asking people to do something that is difficult and disruptive with their lives, and the right moment is to do it when it is most effective and make the biggest difference to slowing the spread of the virus, reducing the number of victims and reducing the number of fatalities.”
He went on to say these steps ensure those who are vulnerable are protected and outlined how pandemic has increased in speed.
Johnson added: “As we take these steps, we should be focusing on the most vulnerable. In a few days’ time, by this coming weekend, it will be necessary to go further and to ensure those with the most serious health conditions are largely shielded from social contact for around 12 weeks.
“The reason for doing this in the next few days rather than earlier or later is this is going to be very disruptive for people who have such conditions, difficult for them, but I believe it is now necessary.
“We want to ensure this period of shielding and maximum protection coincides with the peak of the disease.”
The Prime Minister highlighted how the virus is spiking faster in some areas than others.
He added: “It is now clear the peak of the epidemic is coming faster to some parts of the country than in others and it looks as if London is now a few weeks ahead.
“So, to relieve the pressure on the London health system, and to slow the spread in London, it is important that Londoners now pay special attention to what we are saying about avoiding non-essential contact and take, particularly seriously, the advice about working from home and avoiding confined spaces such as pubs and restaurants.
“Lastly, it remains true that risks of transmission of the disease at mass gatherings such as sporting events are relatively low but obviously logically as we advise against unnecessary social contact of all kinds.
“It is right we should extend that advice to mass gatherings as well so we have also got to ensure we have the crucial workers we need that might otherwise be deployed at those gatherings to deal with this emergency.”
Overwhelmingly worth it
While the Government isn’t banning mass gatherings, Johnson said there would not be emergency services attending them.
He added: “From tomorrow (17 March), we will no longer be supporting mass gatherings with emergency workers in the way we normally do. We are now moving emphatically away from mass gatherings.
“I know many people, including millions of fit and active people over 70, may feel – listening to what I have just said – there is something excessive about these measures.
“But I have to say, I believe they are overwhelmingly worth it to slow the spread of the disease, to reduce the peak, to save life, minimise suffering and give our NHS the chance to cope.
“Over the past few days, I have been comparing notes and talking to leaders around the world and I can tell you the UK is now leading a growing global campaign among all our friends and allies, the G7, G20, UN, IMF – all the bodies – we have a significant role, a campaign to fight back against this disease to keep the economy growing, to make sure humanity has access to the drugs and treatment we all need and the UK is also at the front of the effort to back business, to back our economy to make sure we get through it.
“I know we are asking a lot of everybody, this is far more now than just washing your hands – though, clearly, washing your hands remains important – but I can tell you that across this country, people and businesses, in my experience, are responding with amazing energy and creativity to the challenge we face and I want to thank everybody for the part that you are playing and are going to play.”