BRC says consequences will be “severe” as non-essential retail in South East forced to close again

On Saturday, a new set of Tier 4 restrictions was introduced in London and the South East of England amid fears that a new Coronavirus variant was spreading more rapidly.

For Tier 4 areas in England, including London, Kent, Essex and Bedfordshire, a stay-at-home order has been issued (with exemptions for those who have to travel to work or for education).

In these regions, non-essential retail stores were once again forced to close.

The planned relaxation of COVID rules for the Christmas period were also completely scrapped for the South East and cut to just Christmas Day for the rest of England, Scotland and Wales.

Restrictions are similar to England’s second national lockdown in November/December and now applies in all areas in the South East that were previously in Tier 3 (covering Kent, Buckinghamshire (including Milton Keynes), Berkshire, Surrey (excluding Waverley), Gosport, Havant, Portsmouth, Rother and Hastings, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Essex (excluding Colchester, Uttlesford and Tendring), and Peterborough. It will also apply across the whole of London.

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced the changes to England’s Tier structure at a Downing Street press conference on Saturday.

Under the new Tier 4 restrictions, businesses that provide essential goods and services can stay open.

Some non-essential shops – including electronic goods, according to Government websites – will also be allowed to stay open if they are operating click-and-collect, delivery or takeaway.

But most non-essential stores in the Tier 4 regions have been forced to close.

Responding to Mr Johnson’s announcement, the British Retail Consortium said this is “hugely regrettable news”.

Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the BRC, said: “We recognise that the Government has difficult decisions to make and the situation with the pandemic is very fast moving, but retailers have invested hundreds of millions of pounds making stores COVID-secure for customers and staff. SAGE’s advice has said throughout that closing non-essential retail has a minimal impact on the spread of the virus.

“The consequences of this decision will be severe. For businesses, the Government’s stop-start approach is deeply unhelpful – this decision comes only two weeks after the end of the last national lockdown and right in the middle of peak trading which so many are depending on to power their recovery.

“Faced with this news – and the prospect of losing £2bn per week in sales for the third time this year – many businesses will be in serious difficulty and many thousands of jobs could be at risk.”