Dismay and confusion as Wigan businesses prepare for second national lockdown

Wigan businesses are preparing to close their doors once more after the Prime Minister announced a second national lockdown.
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Just months after they were allowed to reopen - and with multiple changes to restrictions during that time - pubs, bars, restaurants, cafes, shops, hairdressers, gyms and many other businesses have been ordered to shut again.

Boris Johnson announced a four-week national lockdown in England in a bid to control the spread of coronavirus, amid criticism of his delay in imposing restrictions.

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Pubs, bars, restaurants and non-essential retail will close from Thursday until December 2 across England, with furlough payments at 80 per cent extended for the duration of the new restrictions.

Boris Johnson made the announcement on SaturdayBoris Johnson made the announcement on Saturday
Boris Johnson made the announcement on Saturday

People will be allowed to exercise and socialise in public spaces outside with their household or one other person, but not indoors or in private gardens, and will be able to travel to work if they cannot work from home.

Yet unlike in the lockdown during the first wave of the pandemic, schools, colleges and nurseries will remain open.

Businesses hit by the enforced closure have already been looking at what they can do to help their customers.

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Some hairdressers have pledged to work longer days to fit in clients before the lockdown is imposed, while pubs and restaurants announced they would return to takeaways and deliveries, as provided during the initial lockdown.

The Foresters Arms in Standish posted on Facebook: “As I’m sure you are all aware after Wednesday evening we will have to close. We know this is a frustrating and worrying time for everyone but you will be pleased to know we will be back up and running as a takeaway service.”

Just minutes after the announcement was made, a trader at Leigh Market contacted Wigan Council bosses to ask if food stalls would be allowed to remain open and a rent-free period granted for other traders.

Homelessness charity The Brick said its shops would close on Wednesday evening, but that its support services for vulnerable people would continue to operate.

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A Facebook post said: “Our charity shops provide vital funds to keep our front line services going - all support services will continue to operate 24/7. We will be here, helping anyone who needs us, in financial or debt crisis, suffering or at risk of homelessness.

“Please visit our shops before we close this week - every penny goes back into funding charitable activities and we need your support and generosity now more than ever.”

Politicians took to Twitter to voice their opinions on the lockdown.

Lisa Nandy, MP for Wigan, tweeted: “‘It was the right thing to delay’ says the Prime Minister. A reminder that when he was advised to lockdown on 21st September we were recording 4368 cases a day. Now it’s over 21k and rising. The incompetence is staggering.”

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Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham hit out at the Government’s extension of the furlough scheme, after it agreed to pay only 67 per cent of the wages of workers in the county affected when tier three was introduced.

He tweeted: “But when we asked you to do that for the lowest-paid people in the North, you refused. People here will remember that.”

It emerged earlier in October that Government scientific advisers called for a short lockdown in September, prompting Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer to urge Mr Johnson to impose such restrictions.

He said on Saturday that he was glad the Prime Minister had “finally taken the decision it should have taken weeks ago” and indicated Labour would support the restrictions in a Commons vote.

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MPs will vote on the new measures in the Commons on Wednesday ahead of their introduction at 12.01am on Thursday. When they lapse on December 2, the current tier system will be reintroduced.

Under the new restrictions set out by the Prime Minister:

– Millions of people classed as clinically vulnerable to coronavirus will be told to take “extra precautions” but will not be formally asked to shield.

– Travel and overnight stays in the UK and abroad will be restricted as people are advised not to travel unless for essential reasons.

– “Rapid turnaround tests” for coronavirus will be rolled out in “a matter of days”, and the Army will be brought in to help distribute the swabs, which could help partners attend labour wards.

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– Churches will remain open for private prayer, funerals will be limited to 30 people – although it is advised that only close family members attend – and weddings are only allowed in “exceptional circumstances”.

– Single-adult households will continue to be allowed to form a “support bubble” with one other household, and children can move between homes if their parents are separated.

– Job centres, courts, and civil registration offices will remain open, and elite sport will be allowed to continue behind closed doors.

However, Boris Johnson faces a rebellion from his backbenches over the new national lockdown restrictions for amid warnings that the measures would be “disastrous” for the economy.

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The Commons will debate the Government’s proposals this week, with a vote expected on Wednesday, but some Conservative MPs have suggested they could vote against them. Labour has indicated it will support the restrictions, and so any rebellion is unlikely to affect the introduction of the stringent restrictions on Thursday.

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