Virus Outbreak Britain

Streets are mostly empty and Theatres are closed in the normally busy theatreland area of central London, Tuesday. Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday imposed its most draconian peacetime restrictions on businesses and public gatherings due to the spread of the coronavirus. The highly contagious COVID-19 coronavirus can cause mild symptoms, but for some it can cause severe illness including pneumonia..(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

LONDON (AP) — Confusion rippled through Britain on Tuesday, a day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered a three-week halt to all non-essential activity to fight the spread of the new Coronavirus.

Streets were empty but some subways were full. Hairdressers were closed but construction sites were open. People in romantic relationships wondered whether they could see their boyfriends or girlfriends if they weren’t living together.

The government has ordered most stores to close, banned gatherings of more than two people who don’t live together and told everyone apart from essential workers to leave home only to buy food and medicines or to exercise.

“You must stay at home,” Johnson said in a somber address to the nation on Monday evening.

But even as the U.K. recorded its biggest single-day increase in COVID-19 deaths, commuters crowded onto London subway trains Tuesday, amid confusion about who was still allowed to go to work.

As of Tuesday, Britain had 8,077 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 422 deaths, 87 more deaths than a day earlier.

Julia Harris, a London nurse, said her morning train to work was full.

“I worry for my health more on my commute than actually being in the hospital,” she said.

Sporting goods chain Sports Direct said its shops would remain open, arguing that selling exercise equipment was an essential service. It reversed course after an outcry from the public and officials.

Many building sites remained open, with construction workers among those crowding onto early-morning subways.

Electrician Dan Dobson said construction workers felt “angry and unprotected,” but felt they had to keep working.

“None of them want to go to work, everyone is worried about taking it home to their families,” he said. “But they still have bills to pay, they still have rent to pay, they still have to buy food.”

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