March 21, 2020 / 6:57 PM / 5 months ago

UPDATE 1-British retailers shut up shops to counter coronavirus

(Adds details, background)

LONDON, March 21 (Reuters) - British retailers have started to close their stores as the country tries to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

On Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered pubs, restaurants, theatres, cinemas and gyms to shut their doors in a bid to slow the accelerating spread of the virus.

While shops have not yet been ordered to do the same, with reduced shopper numbers they are closing anyway.

John Lewis Partnership said on Saturday it will temporarily close its 50 John Lewis department stores at the close of business on Monday.

This will be the first time in the 155-year history of the employee-owned business that it will not open its shop doors for customers.

The partnership said Johnlewis.com will continue to operate as normal, alongside 338 Waitrose supermarkets and Waitrose.com.

Fashion retailer New Look followed, saying it will temporarily close all its 480 UK stores from 1700 GMT Saturday. Its 28 stores in Ireland closed on Friday.

UK-based retailer Arcadia Group said on Friday it was closing all its stores amid the coronavirus outbreak. Arcadia owns popular brands Topshop, Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Evans, Miss Selfridge and Wallis.

Britain said on Friday it would cover most of the wages of people not working that are "furloughed" and kept on payrolls rather than being laid off. (Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Alexander Smith and Chris Reese)

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