Greggs will close all shops to ensure coronavirus social distancing

Greggs will close its stores from the end of business on Tuesday, saying operating a takeaway service was not enough to maintain social distancing as Covid-19 continues to spread.

In a statement, the bakery firm said: We’ve been doing everything we can to keep our shops open and everyone safe but it has become clear that to help us all maintain social distancing we need to go further and close all of our shops completely.

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“So, we have made the difficult decision to close all of our shops on Tuesday, March 24.”

The decision comes as the UK government comes under increasing pressure to toughen social distancing measures.

The Greggs statement from CEO Roger Whiteside, posted on the firm’s Twitter page, continued: “First and foremost, thank you to our amazing colleagues for the hard work they have been putting in every day. They live and breathe the Greggs spirit, and we couldn’t have got through these challenging times without their unwavering positivity and cooperation."

“Unsung heroes”

Mr Whiteside has confirmed that while shops are close, they will ‘continue to support colleagues with full contract hours for as long as we are able’ although added that this would have to be reviewed as the situation develops.

Greggs will close all its close at the close of business tomorrow. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

The company will also distribute any remaining unsold food to ‘those in hardship’.

“Last but by no means least,” Mr Whiteside added, “A special thank you to the key workers at the front lines of this crisis and all those who continue to work tirelessly to reduce the spread of the virus.

“There are so many unsung heroes, and we’re in awe of you all.”

Greggs also said a planned £40 million handout to shareholders and a share buying scheme have been shelved, adding "we intend to maintain employment of colleagues at full contract hours for as long as is practicable".

Shutting up shop

The company added its name to a growing list of companies voluntarily closing stores ahead of suggestions the Government may step up action and close all "non-essential" stores.

Wagamamas said it would also close its doors from 9pm on Monday, ending all takeaways and deliveries across its 150 sites.

Emma Woods, chief executive, said: "Due to the current situation, we have taken the decision to put down all of our chopsticks and temporarily close all sites across the UK for delivery and take-out until further notice."

Fashion chain Next also said that it would close all 500 sites across the UK at 6pm on Monday and remain shut for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.

It follows full closures by McDonald's, Primark, John Lewis and Nando's as social distancing measures come under scrutiny. Others remain open, including B&Q, which has reported an increase in business, as families look to home improvements while in self-isolation.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has faced calls for tougher restrictions especially in London, such as only allowing food stores and pharmacies to remain open.

But thousands of outlets pre-empted any decision by voluntarily closing their doors.