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Coronavirus: New blow to NI workers as Primark shuts all UK stores

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High street retailer Primark is to close all 189 of its UK stores

High street retailer Primark is to close all 189 of its UK stores

High street retailer Primark is to close all 189 of its UK stores

Popular high street retailer Primark is to close all 189 of its UK stores, affecting some 37,000 people in the latest blow to the UK high street amid the coronavirus pandemic.

There are nine Primark stores in Northern Ireland, including two in Belfast city centre that replaced the fashion chain's flagship store in Bank Buildings that was destroyed by fire in 2018.

"Our main priority is the health and wellbeing of our employees," a spokesman said.

"Primark has committed to supporting all employees who are directly affected by store closures, with full pay for their contracted hours for 14 days, after which the situation will be reviewed.

"Primark will continue to closely monitor the situation, following WHO advice as well as local and national government guidance."

The Dublin-headquartered retailer's sales across Europe have seen heavy declines due to lockdowns and other measures introduced in countries including Italy, Spain and France because of the coronavirus.

All McDonald's restaurants in the UK and Ireland will also close by 7pm on Sunday to protect the safety of its employees and customers, the company said. The fast-food company said it has taken the "difficult decision" in a statement posted to Twitter - adding that stores will close by that time on Monday "at the latest".

"This is not a decision we are taking lightly, but one made with the well-being and safety of our employees in mind as well as in the best interests of our customers," McDonald's said.

Retailers New Look and John Lewis have also announced the temporary closure of all of their stores.

Fashion retailer New Look said it had temporarily closed all of its UK stores at 5pm on Saturday. The company said its shops in the Republic of Ireland had shut at the same time on Friday.

In January, New Look was reported to be launching a new shop at Victoria Square in Belfast. It closed its Donegall Place store last year after Primark bought Fountain House to house one of its new Belfast stores in the wake of the 2018 blaze.

New Look said its newlook.com website would remain in operation during the temporary closures, adding that it had extended its refund policy to 90 days. In a Twitter post, the company said: "These are uncharted territories for all of us and we thank you for your continued support during this time."

Meanwhile, The John Lewis Partnership said it was the first time in its 155-year history that it will not open its shop doors for customers.

The group, which doesn't operate in Northern Ireland, said it will temporarily shut all 50 John Lewis stores at close of business on Monday

John Lewis chairwoman Sharon White said in a statement: "While it is with a heavy heart that we temporarily close our John Lewis shops, our partners will, where possible, be taking on important roles in supporting their fellow partners, providing critical services in Waitrose shops and ensuring our customers can get what they need through johnlewis.com, which is seeing extremely strong demand."

Belfast Telegraph