Boris Johnson has put Britain on lockdown after efforts to get the coronavirus outbreak under control stalled.
The prime minister has announced that the government will be enforcing tougher restrictions, such as travel bans, after advice on social distancing was not followed.
Over the weekend huge numbers flocked to parks, beaches and markets causing anger in Downing Street.
Mr Johnson, speaking from Number 10, announced that people would now only be able to leave their homes if they were shopping for basic necessities, exercising, providing care or travelling to and from work, but only where this is “absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home”.
To ensure compliance with the instruction to stay at home, the UK Government will be closing all shops selling non-essential goods, including clothing and electronic stores and other premises including libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms and places of worship.
The government will also stop all gatherings of more than two people in public – excluding people you live with and stop all social events, including weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies, but excluding funerals.
The prime minister said: “I must give the British people a very simple instruction – you must stay at home, because he critical thing we must do is stop the disease spreading between households.
“You should not be meeting friends. If your friends ask you to meet, you should say No.
“You should not be meeting family members who do not live in your home.
“You should not be going shopping except for essentials like food and medicine — and you should do this as little as you can. And use food delivery services where you can.
“If you don’t follow the rules the police will have the powers to enforce them, including through fines and dispersing gatherings.”
He added: “Without a huge national effort to halt the growth of this virus, there will come a moment when no health service in the world could possibly cope; because there won’t be enough ventilators, enough intensive care beds, enough doctors and nurses.
“And as we have seen elsewhere, in other countries that also have fantastic health care systems, that is the moment of real danger.
“To put it simply, if too many people become seriously unwell at one time, the NHS will be unable to handle it – meaning more people are likely to die, not just from Coronavirus but from other illnesses as well.”
The unprecedented instructions came as it was announced the UK death toll had reached 335.
A further 46 people have died in England since Sunday – aged between 47 and 105 and all with underlying health conditions – while there were four deaths in Scotland and four in Wales.
There have been 83,945 tests to date, with 6,650 confirmed cases.
NHS in England has announced it has identified 1.5 million of the most at-risk people, while there are 200,000 in Scotland, 70,000 in Wales and 40,000 in Northern Ireland.
The updated figures came as the Foreign Office advised Britons travelling abroad to return to the UK as soon as possible because international travel is becoming more difficult with the closure of borders and the suspension of flights.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “If you are on holiday abroad the time to come home is now while you still can.”
Meanwhile, the British Olympic Association said Great Britain will not send a team to Tokyo 2020 if the spread of coronavirus continues as predicted.