Betting stores in locations such as London, East of England, and South East had to close their doors starting December 20 because of new COVID-19 restrictions.
rapidly spreading new strain of COVID-19
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson introduced the measures over the weekend in response to a rapidly spreading new strain of COVID-19. All other forms of non-essential retail stores must also close, with a review of these measures to take place on December 30.
Betting stores in Northern Ireland and Scotland will have to close their doors from December 26 when strict rules come into place in those regions. Similar establishments in Wales closed already following the introduction of level four restrictions on December 20.
Live sports to continue
The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), a UK gambling industry association, reacted to the news of the latest closures of betting stores, tweeting out this statement on December 20:
BGC chief executive Michael Dugher was supportive of the decision to close betting stores in an effort to “fight the spread of COVID-19 and protect our NHS.”
While Dugher admitted that it was disappointing news for betting store customers and workers, the goal is to reopen as soon as it is safe. He also noted that there will be live sports available for people to enjoy during the holiday season, something which was not the case during the national lockdown in March.
The British Racing Authority (BRA) has confirmed that racing will continue behind closed doors in the tier four areas in England. The BRA will continue to engage in discussions with the government and public health officials to regularly review the situation. In a similar announcement, the Greyhound Board of Great Britain confirmed that it will also continue operating races.
A concerning new strain
The COVID-19 situation across the UK has been deteriorating in recent days, with a new strain of the virus spreading rapidly. The transmission rate is reportedly 70% greater than the original version of the virus.
UK Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock noted that there is a massive challenge facing the region because of this “out of control” new strain. While it does not appear to be more dangerous than the original virus, because it spreads more easily, there are fears that rapidly rising case numbers could overwhelm hospitals.
To try to stop the spread of this variant to other parts of Europe, several countries have put travel restrictions on the UK, including France and Ireland.