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UK cancels Christmas for shoppers and retailers

By Don-Alvin Adegeest

20 Dec 2020

Retail

The UK Government has ordered millions of Brits to stay at home, imposing new lockdown restrictions on non-essentials stores. As London and the south-east of England grapple with a more infectious strain of coronavirus, Christmas 2020 is all but cancelled. Some European nations, including The Netherlands, have banned flights and visitors from the UK until January 1st.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday said at a press conference a new strain of Covid-19 has been identified, which scientists say was up to 70 percent more transmissible.

“We cannot continue with Christmas as planned. In England, those living in Tier 4 areas should not mix with anyone outside their own household at Christmas. I know how disappointing this will be, but we have said throughout this pandemic that we must and we will be guided by the science. When the science changes, we must change our response,” Johnson said.

“These areas will enter a new tier 4 which will be equivalent to the national restrictions in November.”

‘Crippling blow’ for businesses

In Tier 4 all non-essential retailers must close. This includes department stores, fashion boutiques, homeware book shops, technology stores and all the high street staples with the exception of food halls. Shops will only be able to offer a click and collect service and deliveries in addition to e-commerce.

The strict rules will be reviewed on December 30th, as part of a wider review of all restrictions.

Richard Lim, chief executive of Retail Economics, described the new restrictions as a “crippling blow” for businesses in London and the South East. “Thousands of retailers are hanging on by a thread, hoping to trade through these vital days before Christmas to strengthen their financial positions after months of disruption. It is essential that adequate Government support is provided for an industry already on its knees,” he said.

“For many shoppers, a last-minute rush to order presents online will come too late as retailers struggle to cope with the sheer volume of orders. Online capacity has already been exceeded for many retailers and a last-gasp attempt for some is likely to push operations beyond their limits.”

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