Non-essential shops to close for six weeks in Ireland

Non-essential shops in Ireland have been ordered to close their doors for six weeks as part of new Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, it was announced last night.

The new rules will kick in from midnight on Wednesday 21 October and last until 1 December, substantially eating into retail’s ‘golden quarter’, which includes Black Friday and the Christmas period. The measures will be reviewed after four weeks.

As well as the closure of non-essential shops, bars and restaurants can operate with a takeaway service only and people can only exercise or meet up outdoors with one other household within a 5km radius of their home. Schools will remain open.

The ‘Level Five’ restrictions are similar in nature to the lockdown that was introduced back in spring when the crisis first struck, and comes as a number of countries in Europe are bringing in new measures to try and stem rising coronavirus cases. Last week, the UK government introduced a new 3 tier system for England, which will see pubs and bars not serving food close in areas considered at high risk. And yesterday, the Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford announced that the country will be placed in a two-week lockdown in which non-essential stores will close.

The Irish Prime Minister Mícheál Martin explained that he hopes the measures will enable the country to open up again in December in time for Christmas. "I understand, and I feel very personally and profoundly, the sense of disappointment, the feelings of loneliness, perhaps even the despair that this announcement will bring for many," said Martin in a televised address.

"The days are getting shorter and colder but I ask you to remember this: even as the winter comes in, there is hope. And there is light."

He also announced new financial measures to support businesses and individuals over this period.

Responding to the announcement, the representative body for the retail industry in Ireland, Retail Ireland, said the measures were a major blow to the many non-essential retailers being forced to close their doors once again, who were relying on the Christmas run up to make up for the huge losses already faced this year.

Arnold Dillon, director at Retail Ireland commented: “Many retailers are facing into a deeply uncertain Christmas trading period. Many thousands of businesses will have to close and tens of thousands of retail workers will be out of work. It is important that customers support affected businesses through online and click and collect services where possible. While important government supports are in place, those retailers without a developed online offering are particularly exposed.”

Last week, figures from the BRC-KPMG retail sales monitor indicated that early Christmas shopping has been helping the retail sector recover in the UK.