McDonald's will close all restaurants in the UK and Ireland from Monday to protect the safety of its employees and customers as the coronavirus outbreak escalates, the company said.
The fast-food company, which has 135,000 employees in the UK and Ireland, 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”.
The restaurants had previously remained open for take-away and Drive-Thru orders.
The decision comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for pubs, clubs and restaurants to shut on Friday, although he stressed they could continue with a takeaway service.
“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.
“We will work with local community groups to responsibly distribute food and drink from our restaurants in the coming days.
“Thank you to our brilliant employees for their hard work during this incredibly challenging time.
“We look forward to seeing you all again as soon as it is safe for us to reopen.”
Paul Pomroy, chief executive of McDonald’s UK & Ireland, said: “Over the last 24 hours, it has become clear that maintaining safe social distancing whilst operating busy takeaway and Drive Thru restaurants is increasingly difficult.”
He added: "We have not taken this decision lightly and know that our restaurants have been playing an important role in the community providing hundreds of thousands of free drinks to frontline health and social workers and emergency services personnel.
“But I have been clear throughout this that we would only continue to operate whilst it was safe for our people and together with our franchisees, we feel now is the time to make this decision to temporarily close.
“We will be working closely with community groups across the UK and Ireland to distribute food from our restaurants to those most in need, and ahead of closing tomorrow evening, will ensure frontline health workers and emergency services personnel do not have to pay for any food or drink in our restaurants on sight of their work pass.
“I want to thank every single one of our 135,000 employees. I am so proud of them all for adapting so quickly to a constantly evolving work environment, taking every step to keep our customers, couriers and teams safe and looking after each other so very well.”
Primark announced it would be closing all 189 of its UK stores from Sunday evening, as the coronavirus pandemic causes further damage to the high street.
It comes after other clothing and fashion chains including John Lewis, Kurt Geiger, Topshop and New Look announced store closures.
Some 37,000 employees will be affected by the closures but will be provided with full pay for 14 days, the company has confirmed.
“Our main priority is the health and well-being of our employees,” a spokesman for Primark said.
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