Non-essential shops to close and furlough scheme extended

All non-essential shops will be forced to close from this Thursday under new lockdown plans announced by the government.

The latest measures were announced tonight by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to tackle a surge in COVID-19 infections, hospitalisations and deaths.

In a Downing Street update, government chief scientists said if nothing was done hospitalisations and deaths will exceed the first wave peak in early December.

Guidance later published specifically highlighted travel agents, saying it had ordered specific businesses to close including: “All non-essential retail, including, but not limited to clothing and electronics stores, vehicle showrooms, travel agents, betting shops, auction houses, tailors, car washes, tobacco and vape shops.”

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Johnson said the government cannot ignore the message of the latest data. He added that “we have to be humbled by nature” despite wanting to take a “pragmatic and local approach”.

Johnson announced all non-essential shops, including pubs, restaurants and bars, will close from November 5 to December 2 and that the government will extend the furlough scheme.

The latest lockdown plans will go before parliament this week to be approved by MPs before Thursday

Johnson said: “I am under no illusion how difficult this will be for businesses who have had to endure hardship.”

He added: “We will get through this but we must act now to curtail the Autumn surge.”

The new measures were announced amid speculation that outbound leisure travel will also be banned from England from Thursday until December 2.

The government took the decision as the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK passed one million and amid warnings that a second wave of the virus would far exceed “worst case scenario” planning.

The rules will apply only to England, with the devolved nations continuing to follow their own strategies including the current 17-day “firebreak” in Wales, which is due to end as planned on November 9.

Scotland’s new tiered restrictions will also come into force as planned on Monday, with first minister Nicola Sturgeon urging against non-essential travel to England.

North Ireland’s first minister Arlene Foster said tightened restrictions would end as planned on November 13.

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