Reed Smith Client Alerts

The UK has now taken the next step to encourage social distancing in its efforts to flatten the rate of new COVID-19 cases. In an address to the nation on the evening of Monday, 23 March 2020, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced that all “non-essential” business premises must now close.

Authors: Sakil A. Suleman Bhawna Desai

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In this brief client alert, we look at which businesses are impacted by this announcement and what support the government is providing for UK businesses that have been impacted by this extraordinary event.

Non-essential businesses

The government had already mandated the closure of restaurants, cafes, bars, pubs and clubs. This has now been extended to all non-essential businesses in a bid to keep people in their homes. This incudes all retail businesses, with some limited exceptions. Based on government guidance that has been published, the following retail businesses are deemed to be essential and permitted to stay open:

  • Food delivery and takeaway services
  • Supermarkets and other food shops
  • Pharmacies
  • Banks and post offices
  • Petrol stations
  • Hardware shops
  • Laundries and dry cleaners
  • Bicycle shops
  • Garages
  • Car rentals
  • Pet shops
  • Corner shops and newsagents

The order also extends to leisure and entertainment businesses, including cinemas, theatres, gyms and betting shops.

A business operating in contravention of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Business Closures) Regulations 2020 will be committing a criminal offence. The Coronavirus Bill is currently going through Parliament on an accelerated basis and will allow further measures on enforcement.

The government did not commit to a timeframe for these closures, but has said the measures will be reviewed in three weeks and will be relaxed if evidence shows this is possible.