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Britain's first night under lockdown: Boy racers in supercars and adoring crowds flock to London's Sloane Square in direct snub to coronavirus rules while streets across the UK are left empty after pubs and clubs close

    Streets of Britain's popular cities were deserted on Saturday night as the country grapples with Covid-19
    Nottingham, Birmingham, and Bristol were eerily empty on what would normally be a time for socialising
    Boris Johnson urged the public not to visit their parents for Mother's Day and make contact via video call
    The coronavirus death toll in Britain has reached 240 so far, with more than 5,000 people infected
    Last night Sloane Street hosted a hoard of expensive sports cars, with crowds gathering around to watch
    Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

By Henry Martin For Mailonline

Published: 09:44, 22 March 2020 | Updated: 11:36, 22 March 2020

The streets of Britain's popular city centres were empty last night as the nation heeded its Government's warnings to stay inside and keep away from others but crowds flocked to watch supercars go by in an upmarket Kensington street despite growing calls for social distancing.  As the UK coronavirus death toll reached 240, with more than 5,000 people infected, pubs, clubs, restaurants and other social venues have shut their doors to customers in order to stave off the deadly infection.  The eerily empty streets of Nottingham, Birmingham and Bristol paint an unfamiliar picture of the country with pictures showing formerly major hubs of social activity abandoned in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.  Despite the majority of London being on lockdown with empty streets, Sloane Street played host to a hoard of expensive sports cars, with crowds gathering around to watch.  Thousands of revellers had ignored the government's advice on social distancing on Friday as they met with friends for a merry night despite the increasing seriousness of the challenge facing our country.   The Prime Minister has now ordered social venues to close their doors, taking away what he called the 'ancient inalienable right of freeborn people of the United Kingdom to go to the pub'.  Last night Boris Johnson urged the public not to visit their parents for Mother's Day and instead make contact via video call services such as Skype, adding that 'we cannot disguise or sugarcoat the threat' of coronavirus and its potentially lethal threat to the elderly and vulnerable.  Britons are now entering a more severe state of social lockdown as doctors warn that a 'tsunami' of severely ill patients was about to engulf them, describing near-apocalyptic scenes amid chronic shortages of basic equipment and fears that unprotected medics could either become desperately ill themselves or become carriers and infect others.  As hospitals raced to convert operating theatres into intensive care wards and begged vets to hand over ventilators normally used for pets, Mr Johnson pleaded with the public to reduce social interaction, even with their mothers.  In a powerful letter, he said: 'Today is Mother's Day. It is a day when we celebrate the sacrifice and the effort of those who gave us life. Across the country, I know that millions of people will have been preparing to do something special, not just a card, not just flowers.  I know that everyone's strongest instinct is to see their mother in person, to have a meal together, to show them how much you love them.  But I am afraid that this Mother's Day the single best present that we can give we who owe our mothers so much is to spare them the risk of catching a very dangerous disease.'

This year's Mother's Day comes as: 

    NHS England national medical director Stephen Powis said panic buyers 'should be ashamed' of themselves for stripping supermarket shelves, adding that taking greater responsibility 'can save lives';

    Tesco boss Dave Lewis pleaded with shoppers to search their conscience and ask themselves: 'Do I need everything in my trolley?';

    Environment Secretary George Eustice insisted there was no shortage of food but refused to directly rule out rationing;

    Plans are being drawn up to recruit 30,000 students and people who have been laid off to pick fruit and vegetables because migrant labourers will not be able to travel to the UK;

    Ministers announced plans to write to Britain's 1.5 million most vulnerable citizens with advice on how to secure vital food and medicines; Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said the Army would help with a challenge 'on a scale not seen since the Second World War';

    GPs were told to stop seeing patients in their surgeries and replace consultations by phone calls and home visits;

    Plans were being drawn up for the Government to buy shares in struggling British airlines with train companies also in line for a potential rescue;

    No 10 said negotiations were underway for the Queen to give a rare televised address to the nation;

    Police were warned to avoid arresting suspects who may have coronavirus;

    Callous criminals exploited the pandemic to rob the elderly and vulnerable by posing as NHS workers and sending a blizzard of fake emails.

Yesterday the Prime Minister, who ordered a 14-day closure of public social centres like pubs and gyms, replied to a seven-year-old girl who told how she cancelled her birthday party twice due to the viral outbreak.  The Prime Minister wrote back to Josephine, from Hampshire, saying he was 'glad to hear you are staying at home, though I am sorry to hear about your party' amid fears of Covid-19.   

Mr Johnson told the little girl: 'We have all got to do our bit to protect the NHS and save lives, and that is exactly what you are doing, so well done! You are setting a great example.  We are working round the clock to keep people safe, and if we work together we can send coronavirus packing. And once we have done that you can DEFINITELY have a party with your friends!'

The PM, who is expecting a baby with fiance Carrie Symonds, added: 'In answer to your question I'm regularly washing my hands with soap and water for 20 seconds: the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice!'

Many high street stores have closed this weekend, even though they could remain open, as Britons are spooked into voluntary self-isolation, remote work, and social distancing amid Covid-19 paranoia.  London one of the world's biggest capital cities, with a population of nine million, is not its usual self as residents steer clear of the city centre, including Waterloo Station, Oxford Street, and Leicester Square.  Shopping malls up and down the country from Leicester and Windsor to Southampton and Cardiff are shadows of their busy former selves, while TK Maxx stores across the UK closed.  City Hall and Transport for London have reduced Underground services across all Tube lines, storing trains which are no longer in use in the east. The move follows days of criticism from commuters fearful of overcrowding on the train carriages after many people continued to go into the office for work.  The scenes of eerie desertion come as YouGov revealed nearly 75 per cent of people they polled admit to having changed their behaviour in response to Government guidance on coronavirus.  Commissioned by Imperial College London's Patient Experience Research Centre, almost half believe they will become infected, while 93 per cent said they took at least one protective measure.

NHS workers shouldn't be able to shop alongside elderly in special hours because they are 'cross-infecting everybody'

Supermarkets have been warned against inadvertently accelerating the spread of coronavirus in the elderly population by allowing potentially infected NHS workers to mix with them in reduced opening times.  Many big stores have launched a so-called 'silver hour' where pensioners can shop in restocked aisles to avoid them falling victim to panic-buying.  Frontline health staff have now also been allowed in at these times after a string of viral videos showed exhausted medics returning from work to find empty shelves.  But a doctor has pointed out the scheme lumps together those most vulnerable to the disease with those most likely to be infected by it.  Lisa Anderson, a consultant cardiologist at St George's Hospital in London, said that NHS workers were not being given the appropriate protective gear to fend off contamination.  She told BBC Radio 4: 'This is not just about the risk to ourselves and our families. We are travelling home on the Tube, on buses,' she told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.  Sainsbury's this morning has announced that they are opening up the early hours to the frail, elderly and NHS workers. We are cross-infecting everybody at the moment.'