Thousands of shops, pubs and restaurants face going bust after the Prime Minister’s coronavirus crackdown on socialising last night.
Boris Johnson urged the public to ‘avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues’, saying ‘now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others’.
The guidelines mean the income of thousands of businesses could collapse overnight, forcing many to close with the potential loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Shops have already suffered a massive drop-off in customers as numbers fell by a third at the weekend. This continued yesterday, with the normally packed Bluewater shopping centre in Kent, for example, near empty.
A near empty Bluewater shopping centre in Kent today. Coronavirus is seeing people keep away from many public places
Shoppers form long queues ahead of the opening of a Costco wholesale store in Chingford today
The country’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty has warned the coronavirus crisis could last for ‘weeks or months’, adding: ‘This is going to be a marathon, not a sprint.’
Last night a backlash was growing against the Government for failing to alleviate the strain on businesses that employ five million.
Experts said that without further help a string of household names on the high street, which will have to pay staff, rent, business rates and tax, will go out of business. Kate Nicholls, of UK Hospitality, said: ‘This is catastrophic for businesses and jobs. The Government has effectively shut the hospitality industry without any support.
The streets of Manchester’s usually bustling suburb of Deansgate were bare today, as coronavirus fears continue to grip the UK as its crisis continues to deepen
Scenes from a very quiet central London as fears of the spread of the coronavirus take hold in London
‘This announcement will lead to thousands of businesses closing their doors for good and hundreds of thousands of job losses.
‘The industry has suffered unprecedented drops in visits and many businesses are already on their knees. This latest advice leaves the industry in limbo.
‘The Government must act now to stop them going under and protect people’s jobs.’
Publicans warned many will not be protected by business interruption insurance because the Government had advised customers not to use their services, rather than putting firms into compulsory lockdown, as in countries including Ireland, France and Italy.
Major chains such as Wetherspoons were last night holding crisis talks, while a source at Fuller’s, which manages almost 400 pubs across London and the South East, said: ‘There are some serious decisions to make.’
Near empty escalators at Canary Wharf station, London, as many office staff in the capital have opted to work from home over coronavirus fears
The M11 in Cambridge this morning, which is noticeably less busy as a result of many people not going into work due to the coronavirus
Waterloo underground around 7.20am. The station is usually packed with commuters arriving from the south of the country and from other parts of London
Retail expert Richard Hyman said: ‘We’ve never seen anything like it. Businesses are going to go to the wall and people will lose their jobs. The ramifications are more serious than the financial crisis.’
British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson said: ‘Retailers face an uphill struggle.
‘It is essential that the Treasury goes much further than the limited efforts outlined in the budget.’
Last night theatres across the country went dark, according to the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre.
A sparsely-filled District Line carriage on an Underground train in west London as many office staff in the capital opted to work from home
Many shoppers have been panic buying at supermarkets today, including these two women in Essex
Julian Bird, chief executive of the groups, said: ‘Closing venues is not a decision taken lightly. It will have a severe impact on many of the 290,000 individuals in our industry.’
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said: ‘The very existence of thousands of pubs and a lot more jobs is now at risk.
‘The Government needs to give detail on the support package to rescue the sector and hundreds of thousands of jobs.’
Shares in shops, bars and restaurants plunged yesterday as bosses warned they were bracing for sales to drop by up to 50 per cent.
Chaos this week saw people scrabbling to load up with loo rolls, long-life milk and pasta in a bid to prepare for the worst as the coronavirus death toll hit 21 yesterday while the number of infected soared past 1,000 in the UK alone. Pictured: Bare shelves in a Morrisons store in London
Railway concourses including London’s Euston (pictured) were sparsely populated today as the public adjusted to the new coronavirus reality
King’s Cross train station is seen almost empty this morning as commuters stay away from public spaces
Edinburgh’s Waverley Train Station during Monday morning rush hour. Just a few people were seen walking around the station
French Connection, which has 250 stores and franchises, is now worth just £7million after a rout on the market. And Laura Ashley admitted it will go bust if it cannot secure £15million of emergency funding in the next two weeks.
Fashion retailer Urban Outfitters closed its 28 UK stores yesterday after similar moves by Apple, the outdoor shop Patagonia and Nike.
The rush at the supermarkets continued despite pleas for customers not to stockpile. John Lewis temporarily moved 500 staff from its department stores into Waitrose shops to help meet demand.
At a usually busy Nottingham station two people are seen on one of the platforms as a train pulls up. Many areas were noticeably quieter today
A Tesco store in south Manchester had to temporarily close this morning due to overcrowding
The streets were unusually quiet in Bristol this morning (pictured) as Britain reacted to the coronavirus escalation
An empty underground station in London today as people are forced to work from home
One of the busiest motorway junctions outside of the M25, Junction 2 of the M61 in Salford, is almost empty this morning during the peak of rush hour
A coronavirus information sign at King’s Cross railway station in London. Only a few people were seen at the ticket gates this morning
Pubs and cafes up and down the country have stopped accepting cash to prevent infection.
Labour MP Jess Phillips called on the Government to provide ‘detailed answers’ on how it would support businesses during the crisis.
She said: ‘Huge parts of my constituency rely on work in pubs and restaurants – it’s not enough to say don’t worry, it’ll be OK.
‘Where is the understanding that for my people this isn’t a Saturday job done by students?’