News article

Coronavirus: Non-essential shops and public spaces must close

25 March 2020


New measures to fight coronavirus require closure of all non-essential shops and community spaces

To slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), the government has introduced new measures from 23 March 2020. These measures require that:

  • all non-essential shops and community spaces must close
  • people must stay at home, except for very limited purposes
  • all gatherings of more than two people in public must stop

These measures are effective immediately. The relevant authorities, including the police, will be given the powers to enforce the measures – including through fines and dispersing gatherings.

Closure of all non-essential premises
The new measures require the following businesses and premises to close:

  • Clothes shops.
  • Electronics shops.
  • Hair, beauty and nail salons.
  • All other non-essential retail shops, including off-licenses.
  • All other indoor and outdoor markets including non-food markets and car boot sales.
  • Hotels, hostels, bed and breakfasts, caravan parks, camping sites, boarding houses - except where caravans and mobile homes are being used as permanent residences and where hotels are providing emergency accommodation.
  • Libraries.
  • Community centres and youth centres.
  • Places of worship - all churches should close to services except for funeral services. Weddings and baptisms should be postponed. If clergy want to live-stream for church services, they are free to do so.
  • All indoor recreation sites such as bowling alleys, arcades, soft play areas.
  • Enclosed spaces in public parks such as playgrounds, tennis courts and outdoor gyms.

Cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants must remain closed, as per instructions given on Friday 20 March 2020.

Business that should continue to trade include:

  • Supermarkets (excluding any cafes within them), convenience stores and corner shops
  • Grocery markets - not including farmers markets, hot food markets or street food markets.
  • Local fresh food suppliers like butchers, fishmongers and bakeries.
  • Hot food takeaways - over the counter services only and not allowing an option to eat in.
  • Pharmacies/Chemists and Health food shops.
  • Dental surgeries, opticians, audiology, physiotherapy, chiropody and other professional vocational medical services – for urgent appointments only.
  • Veterinary clinics and pet shops.
  • Newsagents.
  • Hardware and building supplies stores.
  • Retail services in hospitals.
  • Petrol stations, garages, and auto repair shops for urgent work only.
  • High street banks, credit unions and cash points.
  • Post offices.
  • Funeral directors, crematoriums and related.
  • Laundrettes and dry cleaners.
  • Storage and distribution facilities, including delivery drop-off points.
  • Medical or storage services.
  • Public car parks in towns and cities near food takeaway services.
  • Public toilets.

Online retail remains open and postal and delivery service will run as normal.

The Northern Ireland Executive has published a full list of those businesses that can and can't remain open.

Enforcing the closures
Local government in England and Wales will be responsible for enforcing regulations requiring those businesses asked to close on 20 March 2020. The government will extend these enforcement powers to include the new list of premises for closure. Further measures on enforcement could be taken following the passage of the Coronavirus Bill through parliament.

As agreed with the devolved administrations, these measures will be extended to Northern Ireland and Scotland once the Coronavirus Bill is in force.

A business operating in contravention of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Business Closures) Regulations 2020 will be committing an offence.

Staying at home and preventing public gatherings
As well as closure of all non-essential premises, the new measures also introduce restrictions on people's movement requiring people to stay at home except shopping for necessities, medical need, exercising alone or with members of your household, and travelling to and from work.

All public gatherings of more than two people are also prohibited, except where the gathering is of a group of people who live together (for example, a parent talking their children to the shops if they can't leave them at home) or where the gathering is essential for work purposes (but workers should be trying to minimise all meetings and other gatherings in the workplace).

In addition, all social events, including weddings, baptisms and other religious ceremonies, must stop. This will exclude funerals, which can be attended by immediate family.

The government will look again at all of these measures in three weeks, and relax them if the evidence shows this is possible.


First published 24 March 2020