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UK Businesses Brace For More Hard Times As Pandemic Triggers New Lockdown

Amid a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, a new national lockdown was announced in the U.K. that will take effect on Thursday (Nov. 4) and continue through Dec. 2, according to new guidance issued by the government on Monday (Nov. 2).

“COVID-19 case numbers are rising rapidly across the whole of the U.K. and in other countries. We must act now to control the spread of the virus. The single most important action we can all take, in fighting coronavirus, is to stay at home, to protect the NHS and save lives,” according to the statement.

The new measures take precedence over local restrictions and require people to stay at home unless it is necessary and gather only with people they live with. Non-essential retail can only remain open for delivery and curbside pickup. Merchants providing essential goods and services — like grocery stores and garden centers — can remain open following COVID-secure protection guidelines.

Entertainment facilities and personal hygiene salons will close and hospitality venues like restaurants, bars and pubs can only provide takeaway and delivery services. Takeaway of alcohol will not be allowed.

Merchants are warning that a second lockdown will be a “nightmare before Christmas,” according to a Financial Times(FT) report on Monday (Nov. 2). 

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, told FT the lockdown “will cause untold damage to the High Street in the run-up to Christmas, cost countless jobs and permanently set back the recovery of the wider economy.” 

Associated British Foods told FT that Primark, its High Street fashion chain, will likely lose £375 million in sales during the new lockdown period.

Charlie Gilkes, who runs the Inception Group of bars and restaurants, said, “The timing couldn’t be worse — a large number of retailers and hospitality businesses do half their annual sales and profits in the coming eight weeks.” 

Pubs and restaurants across England are saying that the new lockdown could cause their demise. 

Adam Marshall, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said the new mandates are a “devastating blow to business communities who have done everything in their power to adapt and operate safely.”  

He added: “Many firms are in a much weaker position now than at the start of the pandemic, making it far more challenging to survive extended closures or demand restrictions.”

Germany and France had already instituted a partial lockdown for Nov. 2 before the national guidance was issued. Officials there are anticipating the second wave could be worse than the first.

The U.S. is averaging a record number of new daily cases, with more than 40 states reporting a surge and COVID-related hospital admissions on the rise. 

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