Johnson orders shops to close to curb coronavirus spread

Shops selling "non-essential" goods have been ordered to close as Boris Johnson took dramatic steps to combat the spread of Covid-19.

The draconian measures will be in place for at least three weeks and will also see the closure of libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms, and places of worship.

The Prime Minister said people should not be going shopping except for essentials such as food and medicine.

Although that meant that food retailers and pharmacies would remain open, Mr Johnson said people should limit shopping trips and use delivery services where possible.

Online supermarkets appeared to buckle under the strain after the announcement with crashes occurring on the Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda websites.

In a sombre statement, Mr Johnson said: "To ensure compliance with the Government's instruction to stay at home, we will immediately close all shops selling non-essential goods,​ including clothing and electronic stores and other premises including libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms, and places of worship."

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Supermarket shoppers form epic queues
In Pictures: Coronavirus contrast of empty motorways and supermarket queues
People form a long queue snaking a long way round the parking lot, as they wait to enter a wholesaler supermarket in Coventry, England, early Saturday March 21, 2020. The government has ordered the closure of public gathering places like restaurants, pubs, gyms and leisure centres in an effort to control the spread of coronavirus. For some people the COVID-19 coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, but for others it causes severe illness. (Jacob King / PA via AP)
In Pictures: Coronavirus contrast of empty motorways and supermarket queues
People form a long queue snaking a long way round the parking lot, as crowds wait to enter a wholesaler supermarket in Coventry, England, early Saturday March 21, 2020. The government has ordered the closure of public gathering places like restaurants, pubs, gyms and leisure centres in an effort to control the spread of coronavirus. For some people the COVID-19 coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, but for others it causes severe illness. (Jacob King / PA via AP)
In Pictures: Coronavirus contrast of empty motorways and supermarket queues
In Pictures: Coronavirus contrast of empty motorways and supermarket queues
People wait outside a Tesco Express store at 10.30am on Saturday morning as some supermarkets are restricting opening hours in response to the Coronavirus outbreak. Photo credit should read: Katie Collins/EMPICS
People queue outside of a Costco store in Watford, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, Britain, March 19, 2020. REUTERS/Paul Childs TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People queue outside of a Waitrose supermarket in St Albans, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, Britain, March 19, 2020. REUTERS/Matthew Childs
People queue to shop at Sainsbury's supermarket in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, where the store had announced that the first hour of opening would be for elderly and vulnerable customers.
Early shoppers queue and wait in line for the opening of a supermarket in Rugby, England, Thursday, March 19, 2020. According to the World Health Organization, most people recover in about two to six weeks, depending on the severity of the illness. Some supermarkets are limiting the number of similar items shopper can buy to try and halt hoarding and panic buying, when the supermarket groups and government say there is no shortages in the supply chain. (AP Photo/Martin Cleaver)
Customers wait in a long queue to enter a Costco members wholesale outlet in Farnborough, west of London, on March 19, 2020. - Britain's supermarkets stepped up efforts to safeguard supplies, especially for vulnerable and elderly customers, as the sector battles stockpiling caused by coronavirus panic. (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS / AFP) (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Customers wait in a long queue to enter a Costco members wholesale outlet in Farnborough, west of London, on March 19, 2020. - Britain's supermarkets stepped up efforts to safeguard supplies, especially for vulnerable and elderly customers, as the sector battles stockpiling caused by coronavirus panic. (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS / AFP) (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)
PLYMOUTH, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 19: Shoppers queue outside a Sainsbury's supermarket prior to opening in Plymouth on March 19, 2020 in Plymouth, United Kingdom. The store allowed only the elderly and vulnerable into the store for the first hour. After spates of "panic buying" cleared supermarket shelves of items like toilet paper and cleaning products, stores across the UK have introduced limits on purchases during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some have also created special time slots for the elderly and other shoppers vulnerable to the new coronavirus. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
PLYMOUTH, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 19: Shoppers queue outside a Sainsbury's supermarket prior to opening in Plymouth on March 19, 2020 in Plymouth, United Kingdom. The store allowed only the elderly and vulnerable into the store for the first hour. After spates of "panic buying" cleared supermarket shelves of items like toilet paper and cleaning products, stores across the UK have introduced limits on purchases during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some have also created special time slots for the elderly and other shoppers vulnerable to the new coronavirus. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
NORTHWICH, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 19: Senior citizens queue to shop at Sainsbury's Supermarket on March 19, 2020 in Northwich, United Kingdom. A queue of approximately 600 old age pensioners formed before the market opened at 7am as the shop opened specially for the elderly. After spates of "panic buying" cleared supermarket shelves of items like toilet paper and cleaning products, stores across the UK have introduced limits on purchases during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some have also created special time slots for the elderly and other shoppers vulnerable to the new coronavirus. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
People queue outside of a Costco store in Watford, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, Britain, March 19, 2020. REUTERS/Paul Childs
People queue outside of a Costco store in Watford, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, Britain, March 19, 2020. REUTERS/Paul Childs
People queue outside of a Costco store in Watford, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, Britain, March 19, 2020. REUTERS/Paul Childs
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A series of retailers had already announced they were closing their doors, including John Lewis and Primark.

The Prime Minister acknowledged the move would disrupt people's lives, businesses and jobs.

"I can assure you that we will keep these restrictions under constant review," he said.

"We will look again in three weeks, and relax them if the evidence shows we are able to.

"But at present there are just no easy options. The way ahead is hard, and it is still true that many lives will sadly be lost."

The closure of shops was part of a wider package of restrictions which will could see people fined by the police for breaking the new rules.

British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson said retailers understand the need for governments to "act quickly and decisively" over the coronavirus threat.

"The safety of customers and staff is paramount, which is why retailers have responded swiftly and positively to evolving government guidance on social distancing and other hygiene matters. Indeed, many retailers had gone further and already closed shops temporarily," she said.

"Others have continued to provide essential products and services to their customers, both from physical stores and online. Any retailers that remain open will be following the very latest government public health guidance to ensure they do everything they can to ensure the safety of customers and staff.

"We must all be considerate of the needs of those around us, and respectful of the retail staff who are working round the clock to put food and other essential items on our shelves and into our homes."

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