Non-essential retailers across the UK are braced for a full national lockdown with Prime Minister Boris Johnson set to address the nation this evening at 8pm.
Around 80% of England is already under Tier 4 restrictions which force the closure of non-essential retail but spiralling cases of a new, more contagious variant of COVID-19 is forcing more stringent measures. Scotland has already announced a full national lockdown from midnight tonight.
The UK has recorded 58,784 further cases of COVID-19 today. This is the highest daily figure ever for recorded cases and the seventh day in a row that the daily number of cases has topped 50,000. There were 407 deaths recorded today with deaths up 21% week on week.
Johnson is expected to announce that the UK is now on level 5 alert level. When the UK went into full lockdown last March, the alert level was 4.
“The spread of the new variant of COVID-19 has led to rapidly escalating case numbers across the country. The prime minister is clear that further steps must now be taken to arrest this rise and to protect the NHS and save lives. He will set those out this evening,” a Downing Street spokesperson said.
The news comes on the first working day of 2021 which saw Christmas gift returns spike by 10.7% year-on-year, according to Parcelhero, as previous COVID-19 restrictions forced more and more consumers online to carry out their Christmas shopping.
Pre- and post-Christmas moves to place most of England under Tier 4 restrictions had a dramatic effect on retail footfall as shopper numbers slumped by -23% last week – 27 December – 2 January – compared to the week before.
As well as closing non-essential retail and close-contact beauty services across the country, the more stringent measures could involve the closure of more primary schools with those in certain hot spots already closed, along with secondary schools.
In better news the new Astra-Zeneca vaccine, developed by Oxford University, began to be rolled out today with the Government setting the expectation that all vulnerable people will be vaccinated by Easter.