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Bad News for Retail as Covid Lockdowns Cloud the Horizon: Week Ahead

The coronavirus vaccine is finally rolling out, but the public can’t be vaccinated quickly enough to prevent another lockdown designed to keep hospitals from being overrun with resources stretched beyond breaking point.

Northern Ireland announced Thursday that it will impose a coronavirus lockdown for six weeks starting Dec. 26. All nonessential retail will close, as well as close-contact services such as beauty salons and gyms. Restaurants are restricted to take-out orders.

Wales on Wednesday said it would shut down nonessential retailers at the end of business on Christmas Eve, enacting a full, open-ended lockdown four days later that will last for at least three weeks. Stores will be closed for Boxing Day on Dec. 26, one of retail’s big sales event days.

Elsewhere, Austria’s government said on Friday that the country will enter its third Covid lockdown on Dec. 26, 11 days after ending a second lockdown. The lockdowns are slated to last until the week of Jan. 18, with mass testing beginning a few days before. Anyone who declines to get tested will have to shelter in place until Jan. 24.

Germany, which entered a hard lockdown on Wednesday, and the Netherlands, which is under a five-week lockdown through Jan. 18, are already operating under tighter restrictions.

Sweden’s government on Friday recommended wearing masks on public transportation and closing nonessential public workplaces, like public libraries, municipal gyms, and pools, through Jan. 24. Despite record numbers of new infections, the country so far has avoided locking down.

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About 75 percent of California came under three-week lockdown orders earlier starting Dec. 6, after intensive care unit capacity at the state’s Southern California and Central Valley hospitals fell below 15 percent. The San Francisco Bay Area is expected to remain shut down until Jan. 4.

More than half of the towns and cities in Massachusetts have been labeled “hot spots,” or “red zones.” On Sunday, Massachusetts did put into effect tighter restrictions that rolled back the state’s reopening to Phase 3, Step 1. That essentially placed restrictions on restaurants and outdoor gatherings. Retailers can stay open, and are even allowed to keep fitting rooms in operation where necessary.

New York, once the epicenter of the Covid outbreak in March before getting infections under control, is also seeing a rise in Covid cases. Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday hinted at a second lockdown if the current infection trends continue. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday said a shutdown “right after Christmas” was a possibility, although he said he would be open to an earlier one if the state decided it was necessary. That decision will be made by Cuomo. New York City restaurants ended indoor dining again on Monday though retail remains open.