Wales will shut down all nonessential retailers at the end of business on Christmas Eve before heading into its third round of a full lockdown four days later amid rising coronavirus infections.
The lockdowns also include any services that bring workers and consumers into close contact, such as hair salons, gyms and leisure centers. Four days later, Wales will enter a level four alert, the most serious restrictions possible. That means public facilities and hotels, indoor and outdoor entertainment venues, skate parks and the like will also close.
This time, the third full lockdown for retailers will mean that stores won’t be open for sales on Boxing Day, the day after Christmas that traditionally gave servants a day off. The name originated from a time when wealthy citizens would box up gifts for those who were less fortunate. Boxing Day has also become one of the U.K.’s biggest retail days.
Much like how American retailers closed for Thanksgiving Day this year so workers can stay home to celebrate with family, many supermarket chains in the U.K.—such as Asda, Aldi and Waitrose—have announced that they will close for the first time on Boxing Day for the same reason. Other retailers have also said they will shut their doors this year, including Home Bargains and Pets at Home. Department store chain John Lewis traditionally closes on Boxing Day, and will do so again later this month.
Covid-19 infection rates have remained high in Wales for weeks. The Welsh government in October instituted a two-week “firebreak” lockdown that ended Nov. 9. When the firebreak ended, Wales put in place its new set of national restrictions to help curb the coronavirus’ spread.
First Minister Mark Drakeford made the latest lockdown announcement on Wednesday. “The situation we are facing is extremely serious. We must move to alert level four and tighten the restrictions to control the spread of coronavirus and save lives,” he said, adding that the “new set of higher-level restrictions will apply to the whole of Wales.”
The lockdowns have no end date, but will last for an initial three weeks. After that, there will be a review every three weeks. And while Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the four U.K. nations have agreed to allow three households to mix over the Christmas holiday from Dec. 23-27, Drakeford suggested that the maximum should be capped at two households. Scotland is also calling for household bubbles of fewer than three.