The British government has told pubs and restaurants to shut by Friday night. Gyms, movie theaters and clubs have also been ordered to close, in the United Kingdom's most sweeping measures yet designed to flatten the curve of coronavirus cases.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people thinking of enjoying one last Friday night out, "Please don't. You may think that you're invincible, but there is no guarantee that you will get mild symptoms and you can still be a carrier of the disease and pass it on to others. We want you to stay at home."
Treasury chief Rishi Sunak, meanwhile, announced that for the first time in history, the government will pay 80% of a furloughed employee's wages. That move follows angry cries from the hospitality sector demanding government support.
The new measures came as the coronavirus has risen quickly across much of Europe. On Friday morning, health officials said 3,983 people have tested positive in the U.K. and 177 have died.
Despite the rising numbers, the U.K. has not yet gone on lockdown. Although public transportation has been reduced, people are still allowed to leave their homes.
In fact, British people have been told to avoid pubs since Monday, but not everyone was listening, prompting calls for firmer action.
In a near-deserted pub on Thursday in East London, three friends met for a pint after seeing beer advertised for the equivalent of just over $2 — and after several days bored at home.
"I don't know if this is safe. Is it?" said Harris Allen, an actor. "But, like, this is the only interaction I've had in a week. Also, I work in a pub. If no one comes in and drinks, I won't have a job. I won't get paid."
Rory Thomas-Howes, who owns a theater company and juggles several freelance jobs that have all been canceled, agreed. "We were shut in for like three days. Then I went out and there were so many people out here. And it's kind of like, well, if everybody's out, am I helping? I don't know what I'm doing."
"I don't think anyone does," answered Josh Tucker, another actor and kindergarten teacher. "I think we just need to be told what to do."