What the new lockdown rules mean for UK businesses

Lucy Harley-McKeown
·3 min read
Dominic Townsend and Steve Pond play indoor golf at The Prince, a pub they share an apartment above and say are lucky enough to be stuck in during lockdown as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in London, Britain April 28, 2020. Picture taken April 28, 2020.  REUTERS/Dylan Martinez u000d     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
To reduce social contact, the government has ordered certain businesses and venues to close. Photo: Reuters/Dylan Martinez

New coronavirus restrictions have been announced and are due to come into force on Thursday.

The restrictions, announced in a press conference by Boris Johnson on Saturday (31 October), will see England locked down for four weeks from 5 November to 2 December in an effort to combat rapidly rising coronavirus infection rates.

Senior government minister Michael Gove told Sky News on Sunday the restrictions could be extended past the 2 December deadline if progress in bringing down virus cases isn’t satisfactory.

The lockdown is a last-ditch attempt to get case numbers under control before the festive period.

“Christmas is going to be different this year, perhaps very different, but it’s my sincere hope and belief that by taking tough action, we can allow families across the country to be together,” Johnson said on Saturday.

The "situation has been worse than any of us expected" and has threatened to overwhelm the NHS, said Gove.

So, with all these new restrictions, what does this mean for business?

To reduce social contact, the government has ordered certain businesses and venues to close. These include:

  • 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

  • Indoor and outdoor leisure facilities such as bowling alleys, leisure centres and gyms, sports facilities including swimming pools, golf courses and driving ranges, dance studios, stables and riding centres, soft play facilities, climbing walls and climbing centres, archery and shooting ranges, water and theme parks

  • Entertainment venues such as theatres, concert halls, cinemas, museums and galleries, casinos, adult gaming centres and arcades, bingo halls, bowling alleys, concert halls, zoos and other animal attractions, botanical gardens

  • Personal care facilities such as hair, beauty and nail salons, tattoo parlours, spas, massage parlours, body and skin piercing services, non-medical acupuncture, and tanning salons

  • Hospitality venues like restaurants, bars and pubs must close, but can still provide takeaway and delivery services. However, takeaway of alcohol will not be allowed

  • Hotels, hostels and other accommodation should only open for those who have to travel for work purposes and for a limited number of other exemptions which will be set out in law.

Food shops, supermarkets, garden centres and certain other retailers providing essential goods and services can remain open. Essential retail should follow COVID-secure guidelines to protect customers, visitors and workers, the government said.

Non-essential retail can remain open for delivery to customers and click-and-collect.

A full list of the business closures will be published and set out in law after it has passed through parliament on Wednesday.

READ MORE: UK government needs to ‘sort out test and trace system’ industry chiefs say

There will also be a restriction on travel, including outbound international travel, except for work purposes. Travel within the UK is also discouraged.

Construction sites are among those encouraged to remain open, alongside schools, universities and colleges.

People are still allowed to form support bubbles and children can move between homes if their parents are separated.

The restrictions come alongside an extension to the government furlough scheme. The scheme, which was designed to support businesses amid wide-reaching lockdowns, had been due to end on 31 October and be replaced by the Job Support Scheme (JSS) on 1 November.

READ MORE: What's next for the furlough scheme? The extension and Job Support Scheme explained

Investors will be bracing for impact come Monday, as businesses across the country do damage limitation for missing what would usually be a busy pre-Christmas period.

Markets around the world plunged on news of initial lockdown restrictions, moves which are likely to be replicated tomorrow.

Businesses are bound to be hit across the board, from airline stocks on the news of curtailing international travel, to the already hard-hit hospitality sector.

Watch: Starmer: Delay in lockdown will have a ‘very real’ human cost