To say the recent outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) has had a significant impact on life would be an understatement. With the enforcement of strict social distancing rules, many businesses have had to adapt, and some may need help to get through this difficult time.
Here is how some of the biggest names on the British high street have reacted to the restrictions.
As they’re classified as ‘essential’ business, Britain’s supermarkets have largely remained open, albeit with restrictions on the number of customers allowed in the store at any one time, and in some outlets, limits on the number of items to reduce stockpiling and panic-buying. Many of the chains have taken steps to combat a potential lack of stock for those unable to shop at peak times, and dedicated certain ‘priority hours’ to elderly shoppers, or those working in the NHS.
The worldwide fast-food chain decided to combat the virus’ potential spread by gradually reducing its UK operations. The first of these steps was by stopping their in-store and table service to minimise contact between staff and customers, while still operating their drive-thru and delivery services. Eventually, the chain closed all its outlets across the UK and Ireland at 7 pm on Monday 23rd of March, leading to massive queues at restaurants as people scrambled for one last meal before the doors closed indefinitely.
One of the industries most heavily affected by the coronavirus outbreak is the airline industry. Virgin Atlantic is seeking a bailout, and Flybe completely collapsed near the start of the virus’ outbreak.
Budget airline EasyJet had to make significant cancellations once the virus spread to Europe, and came under fire for apparently cancelling customers’ flights only to resell the seats as ‘rescue flights.’ They’ve since taken further steps to ground their entire fleet of planes and furlough employees.
Staff from both EasyJet and Virgin Atlantic have been offered jobs at the temporary Nightingale Hospital at the ExCeL Centre in London.
Before the lockdown, JD Wetherspoons were reluctant to close the chain of pubs, and following the introduction of social distancing, suggested that staff find jobs at supermarkets, causing some to believe they wouldn’t be paid while the chain was closed. However, after backlash, the company announced that it would be paying its staff.
High-street booksellers, Waterstones, initially attempted to remain open. However, after listening to staff feedback, they followed in the footsteps of other non-essential outlets, and temporarily closed all their shops to “protect the wellbeing of customers and staff”. Consequently, they have also suspended their click & collect services. While their online order and delivery services remain operational, they have noted that the dispatch of items may be slower than normal.
Many businesses; both limited companies and sole traders, are having to adapt to the new restrictions brought in to combat COVID-19. Many cannot open, and those that can are making changes for the safety of staff and customers. Nobody really knows how long these measures will have to last, but the implications it could have for businesses in the UK and across the world could last even longer.