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Off-licences and breweries on 'essential businesses' list for coronavirus lockdown

Yahoo! Finance UK logo Yahoo! Finance UK 25/03/2020 Kalila Sangster
a can of soda: Cans of beer line a shelf in a store in central London on November 28, 2012. The British government was to announce plans on November 28 for a minimum alcohol price of 0.45 GBP (0.72 USD, 0.56 euros) in England and Wales in an attempt to restrain an infamous binge-drinking culture. AFP PHOTO / CARL COURT    (Photo credit should read CARL COURT/AFP via Getty Images) Cans of beer line a shelf in a store in central London on November 28, 2012. The British government was to announce plans on November 28 for a minimum alcohol price of 0.45 GBP (0.72 USD, 0.56 euros) in England and Wales in an attempt to restrain an infamous binge-drinking culture. AFP PHOTO / CARL COURT (Photo credit should read CARL COURT/AFP via Getty Images)

Off-licences have been added to the UK government’s list of “essential businesses” allowed to stay open during the nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Licensed shops selling alcohol, including those in breweries, were a late addition to the updated list of stores exempted from mass closures in the retail and hospitality sectors.

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More on coronavirus:

Kindness in crisis appeal: Help Britain's most vulnerable beat coronavirus

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How to self-isolate: Key steps to prevent the infection spreading (Vox)

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Other businesses considered essential to keep the country running include supermarkets, pharmacies, corner shops, banks, petrol stations, and bike shops.

Non-essential shops were ordered to close on Monday night as prime minister Boris Johnson announced UK-wide lockdown.

a close up of a shelf: Shelves of beer and lager at a Tesco supermarket in Leicester, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered pubs, restaurants, leisure centres and gyms across the country to close as the Government announced unprecedented measures to cover the wages of workers who would otherwise lose their jobs due to the coronavirus outbreak. (Photo by Joe Giddens/PA Images via Getty Images) © Provided by Yahoo! Finance UK Shelves of beer and lager at a Tesco supermarket in Leicester, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered pubs, restaurants, leisure centres and gyms across the country to close as the Government announced unprecedented measures to cover the wages of workers who would otherwise lose their jobs due to the coronavirus outbreak. (Photo by Joe Giddens/PA Images via Getty Images)

Pubs, bars, restaurants had already been told to close their doors in an effort to encourage social distancing to help prevent the spread of coronavirus — a move that saw supermarket shelves stripped of alcoholic beverages as people stockpiled booze.

Places of worship must close, apart from for funerals, as must libraries, museums, galleries, and bingo halls.

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The inclusion of off-licences on the essential businesses list is likely to come as a blow to JD Wetherspoon (JDW.L) boss Tim Martin. Last week the pub chain owner pledged to keep his 867 UK pubs open for as long as possible, arguing that closures would not help stop the coronavirus, just hours before every pub and restaurant in the UK was ordered to close.

“Pubs should remain open rather in the way parliament has remained open,”Martin said at the time. “You could implement reasonable social distancing... rules such as no standing at the bar please, wipe down the surfaces every half hour, and so on.”

Since the closures Martin has told Wetherspoon’s 40,000 staff they could face delays being paid and urged them to consider taking a job at supermarkets like Tesco (TSCO.L) instead.

The comments provoked criticism from unions and some Wetherspoon staff. The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) and SpoonStrike, a group set up to organise collective staff action at JD Wetherspoon, said the pub group had “no regard for the financial and mental wellbeing of their employees.”

Stay at home to stop coronavirus spreading - here is what you can and can't do. If you think you have the virus, don't go to the GP or hospital, stay indoors and get advice online. Only call NHS 111 if you cannot cope with your symptoms at home; your condition gets worse; or your symptoms do not get better after seven days. In parts of Wales where 111 isn't available, call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47. In Scotland, anyone with symptoms is advised to self-isolate for seven days. In Northern Ireland, call your GP.

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