Covid-19: Non-essential shops in Wales to close under new lockdown

Non-essential retail shops in Wales will close for two weeks as part of new lockdown restrictions introduced by the devolved administration. First Minister Mark Drakeford made the announcement today in a bid to contain the spread of Covid-19, with rates rising rapidly in all parts of the UK over recent weeks.

The lockdown period will begin from 23 October and last until 9 November, which will encompass schools’ half-term holiday.

As well as non-essential retail, leisure and tourism businesses including restaurants and pubs will close. So too will close-contact services such as hairdressers and beauticians while all gatherings indoors and outdoors with people from other households will be banned. These steps are similar to the measures imposed by the UK government when the pandemic first struck in March.

Drakeford commented: "Unless we act the NHS will not be able to look after the increasing number of people who are falling seriously ill, even with the extra 5,000 beds that we have available for this winter.”

He added: "This firebreak is the shortest we can make but that means it will be sharp and deep in order to have the impact."

Drakeford said that the Welsh government will use the 17-day period to “purposefully” extend its contact tracing system and accelerate plans for field hospitals in the country.

The First Minister also announced that a new economic resilience fund of almost £300 million will be made available to support businesses affected by the lockdown measures. This includes small and medium sized retail, leisure and hospitality businesses forced to close receiving a one-off payment of up to £5,000.

The new restrictions could cause further damage to many retailers in Wales. Throughout the crisis, a number of brands have closed stores and made in-store staff redundant as a result of reduced customer footfall and the shift to eCommerce. These include M&S, Boots, WHSmith, and TM Lewin.

Last week, the UK government announced a new three tier lockdown plan in response to rising coronavirus cases, in which pubs and bars not serving food in regions in the “high risk” category close. However, retail businesses will remain open in all three tiers. These rules only apply to England.