- Huw Hughes
Boris Johnson has announced a month-long lockdown in England to start on
Thursday that will see all non-essential retailers close.
It will be the second nation-wide lockdown since the Covid-19 outbreak,
with the first three-month lockdown beginning in March.
Johnson said this time the lockdown will be less severe, with schools,
colleges and universities permitted to stay open.
It comes as Covid-19 cases continue to increase at a worrying rate
across the country. The new lockdown will replace a three-tier system
announced in October which saw areas of England apply varying levels of
restrictions based on their classification as either medium, high or very
Johnson said the lockdown is expected to last until 2 December, after
which the three-tier regional system will be reintroduced.
These new measures will undoubtedly have a big impact on the already
struggling retail sector which has been showing slow signs of improvement
since reopening in June.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) last month
revealed UK retail sales increased by 1.5 percent in September compared to
August, marking the fifth consecutive month of growth. Sales were 5.5
percent higher in September than they were at February’s pre-pandemic
’A nightmare before Christmas’
Responding to the news of a national lockdown, British Retail Consortium
CEO Helen Dickinson said “there is no circumstance in which any retail
premises should have to close in a second national lockdown”, citing a
recent Sage paper which found closing “non-essential” retail would have a
minimal impact on the transmission of Covid-19.
“This is thanks to the hundreds of millions of pounds retailers have
spent making their stores Covid-secure and safe for customers and
colleagues,” Dickinson said.
“The closure of any parts of retail would have a massive impact on the
viability of thousands of shops and hundreds of thousands of jobs across
the country. In April and May, “non-essential” shops were losing 1.6
billion pounds a week in lost sales; now that we are entering the Christmas
shopping period, these losses are certain to be much bigger.
“The government should consider very carefully any decision to close
“non-essential” retail. It will cause untold damage to the high streets
this close to Christmas, cost countless jobs, and permanently set back the
recovery of the wider economy, with only a minimal effect on the
transmission of the virus.”
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