Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 26 November 2020

CORONAVIRUS

Lockdown doesn’t quite cancel Christmas as London lights bring festive cheer

West End retailers hope England’s lockdown will be lifted in early December

Shops in London’s West End have switched on the Christmas lights, ushering in a festive season that retailers hope will bring cheer and some much-needed revenue.

Many of the shops that line world-famous streets, including Regent Street and Oxford Street, are currently closed, and retailers are desperate for England’s lockdown to be lifted at the start of December.

Before the country’s second lockdown was enforced in early November, many of the country’s urban areas were under local tiered restrictions, and it is not immediately clear what will happen when the current lockdown in England expires on December 2.

The West End lights spread from Piccadilly and Mayfair to Carnaby Street and Belgravia, and out to Covent Garden with its covered markets.

Christmas lights on Regent Street in central London. Reuters
Christmas lights on Regent Street in central London. Reuters

Along the route is Fortnum & Mason, with its traditional luxury hampers and Hamleys, the toy shop.

Oxford Street, usually one of the busiest thoroughfares in the country, has been comparatively empty. Piccadilly Circus, famed as a crowded spot at all times of the day, now sees far less hustle and bustle.

Retail sales rose in October, but November has been spent largely in lockdown, meaning December will be key in the bid to salvage lost revenue.

It is thought some consumers brought forward their Christmas shopping into October.

As retailers hope for a heavy footfall in December, scientists have warned that relaxing restrictions over Christmas will add "fuel to the fire” of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Much of the country is expected to fall into Tier 3 after December – or very high alert – which prevents people meeting indoors.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said on Thursday that a decision will be made as close as possible to December 2, adding he did not want to be “the Grinch who stole Christmas”.

Discussions between Prime Minister Boris Johnson, his government, and public health experts are set to take place next week on the next course of action as December approaches, with many Britons worried the lockdown will be extended.

Updated: November 20, 2020 09:36 PM

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