New lockdowns in Northern Ireland and Wales will see retail closures from 26th December, as non-essential shops shut their doors from the end of trading on Christmas Eve.
The measures in Northern Ireland will be reviewed after four weeks. The first week of the lockdown, running until 2nd January, will see stricter measures, with even essential shops having to close by 8pm.
Close-contact services, such as hair salons, will also be forced to close, and pubs, cafes and restaurants will be restricted to takeaway services only. No sporting events will be permitted – even at elite level – and the public has been insructed to only leave their homes for essential reasons.
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said she recognised the lockdown would be “disappointing” for many people, but that it was clear a “longer and deeper intervention” was necessary.
The Northern Ireland Retail Consortium has demanded that the executive “urgently provide clarity” about criteria for retail to reopen after the lockdown. “We also need shoppers to continue to act responsibly in the shopping days that are left until Christmas,” added director Aodhán Connolly.
Glyn Roberts, chief executive of Retail NI, described the news as “profoundly disappointing”. “Make no mistake – this third lockdown will result in a tsunami of independent retailers falling and thousands more jobs being lost with permanent damage done to our local high streets,” he said.
In Wales, non- essential retailes have also been asked to close from the end of trading on Christmas Eve, and the country will enter a level four lockdown, the highest possible, from 28th December, with some sectors closing during the Christmas period.
The public will be expected to stay at home, with travel only allowed for essential reasons. Pubs and restaurants had already been told not to sell alcohol earlier in December, and outdoor and indoor attractions – such as cinemas – are now closed. Leisure and fitness centres will also have to shut.
The lockdown has no end date and will be reviewed every three weeks, beginning in January.
Economy Minister Ken Skates promised an announcement later this week about a “significant sum of money” to provide more support for businesses, including the retail sector, affected by the new restrictions. “We’re asking businesses, and we’re asking citizens, to put off some of the activities that they would normally undertake just after Christmas until, hopefully, later in January or perhaps a little later depending on the three-week review,” he told BBC News.”We do not underestimate the terrible strain that businesses are facing right now.”
Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price said there was a “very strong case” for going into lockdown, while Paul Davies, of the Welsh Conservatives, said “doing nothing is not an option”.