Prime Minister Boris Johnson's announcement on Monday to lock down the UK in an attempt to curb the spread of coronavirus didn't come as a shock. For days, commentators had predicted that stricter restrictions on movement and daily life were just around the corner. The only surprise is that it took the government this long to introduce one. European countries like Belgium had already implemented theirs, despite having fewer cases than the UK.
Under the new rules, people in the UK are only to leave their houses under a very limited set of circumstances, such as needing to shop for basic necessities like food. You're only allowed to exercise once a day, and even then must keep at least two metres away from other people outside. All businesses – with a few exceptions, including supermarkets and takeaways – must shut. From today onwards, daily life will look very different.
People in London – where the majority of cases and deaths have occurred – have watched the city empty out over the space of just a few days. Streets are empty; traffic is quieter. Tourist locations that would otherwise be rammed with people now look like abandoned sets from 28 Days Later. In central London, people who would have once trampled on you to get to the last seat on the Tube now keep their distance. If you wonder what a post-lockdown world looks like, London is already living it. Photographer Chris Bethell has been documenting our new normal.
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.