Skip to main content

Businesses that must close at alert level 4.

First published:
18 December 2020
Last updated:

Introduction

This guidance sets out what businesses and premises will be required to close at alert level 4. It also sets out the limited purposes for which some closed businesses and premises may be accessed.

Those responsible for premises that remain open to the public, or for any premises that is a workplace, are legally required to take all reasonable measures to mitigate the risk of coronavirus spreading, and to have regard to Welsh Government guidance on what that means.

We recognise the enormous efforts businesses have made to become safe places. This requirement to close in alert level 4 is not a reflection on those efforts and we appreciate that some business environments make only a low or moderate contribution to the risk of transmitting the virus. But in alert level 4 minimising any contribution to the spread of the virus is important, which is why certain businesses are required to close temporarily.

Scope of this guidance

This guidance, and the restrictions in the coronavirus regulations, are directed primarily at premises open to the public. Those premises may be indoors or outdoors. The primary purpose of closing premises is to reduce the number of gatherings between people, and to reduce the number of journeys that people make, in keeping with the overall rule that people should stay home as much as reasonably possible.

Certain types of businesses are able to conduct their activities in a range of different settings, including in people’s homes. Where businesses are prohibited from operating in one type of premises, they will also (subject to the exceptions set out in this guidance) be prohibited from operating in other premises. So for example, because there is a prohibition on hairdressers’ shops from opening as this is seen as a non-essential activity, mobile hairdressers are also not permitted to provide their services in clients’ homes or their own homes. This is to avoid gatherings of people being displaced from one setting to another, and to minimise unfair distortion of competition between similar businesses.

This means that businesses which do not operate out of premises open to the public are not included in the lists on this page, and remain permitted to operate. So for example, construction or maintenance work on private property, factory work and cleaning services are not listed in this guidance, but remain able to continue on the same basis as before.  

For those businesses continuing to operate, the person responsible for the work must take all reasonable measures to minimise exposure to coronavirus on the premises, and reduce the risk of those that have been on the premises from spreading the virus.Statutory guidance has been issued to help people understand what “reasonable measures” means, which those responsible for an open premises must have regard to. In addition, the Welsh Government has published guidance to help employers, employees and the self-employed to work safely during the pandemic.

Shops: general rule

The default position with regard to shops (“any business selling goods or services for sale or hire in retail premises”) in alert level 4 is that they should all be closed, unless they are a category of shop that provides goods or services that are explicitly allowed.

Generally speaking businesses operating out of shops should assume they will be required to close those shops and cease their activities  unless they are exempt due to the goods or services they provide being deemed to be “essential”.

This is consistent with the overarching requirement imposed on the people of Wales to stay at home in alert level 4. The default position is that people must stay at home unless they have a reasonable excuse to leave. Reasonable excuses are listed, but they only apply if leaving home is necessary. So leaving home for any reason that is not essential is not allowed.

This means there are two issues to address when considering whether going to shops is “essential”.

The first of these is the responsibility of the individual. People should ask themselves whether they need to leave home. Clearly there are plenty of valid reasons why people may need to leave home, the most obvious of which is to buy food. However, people should minimise the amount of times they leave home for this purpose and the amount of time they are away. They should also consider whether alternatives such as home delivery are available. In addition if people do not need to buy any particular product they should not leave home to do so.

The second issue relates to the availability of products people may wish to purchase. In order to mitigate the risk of people leaving home unnecessarily, certain types of retail business have been required to close. The rationale for their closure is again based on whether it could be considered necessary to leave home to purchase goods or services from their premises. Here the responsibility rests on those responsible for the businesses and their premises, some of which are legally required to close.

Chapter 2 of Part 4 of Schedule 4 to the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) Regulations 2020 sets out the default position that all shops must close, while Chapter 3 provides that exemptions apply in some circumstances. Chapter 4 lists the premises that must be closed and the exemptions. And there is a corresponding reasonable excuse to leave home provides that people can go to such shops if they need to.

  1. “(1) No person may, without a reasonable excuse, leave the place where they are living or remain away from that place.
  2. (2)  For the purposes of sub-paragraph (1), a person has a reasonable excuse if—
      1. the person leaves or remains away from the place where they are living  for a purpose that is reasonably necessary and there is no reasonably practicable alternative, or
      2. one of the circumstances in sub-paragraph(4) applies.
    1. (3)            Examples of purposes for which it may be reasonably necessary for a person to leave or remain away from the place where they are living include—
      1. obtaining supplies from a business or service listed in paragraph 12 [, including—
        1. food and medical supplies for those in the same household or extended household (including animals in the household or extended household) or for vulnerable persons;
        2. supplies for the essential upkeep, maintenance and functioning of the household or extended household, or the household of a vulnerable person];”

Shops selling multiple types of product

Some shops such as supermarkets sell multiple types of product, including the types of product normally sold by shops which are required to close at alert level 4.  

For the purposes of the Regulations these shops are operating more than one type of business and they are required to close those parts of their premises selling products that a type of business which has been required to close would normally sell.

The responsibility for closing premises and not selling certain products cannot be delegated to customers and must be managed by the shop. Shops cannot divest themselves of this responsibility, and for the avoidance of doubt making all of their products available and merely asking customers (for example through signage or announcements) not to purchase anything that the customer thinks they have good reason to buy does not meet the legal obligation.      

The areas which can be open in shops selling multiple product types are areas selling:

  • Food and drink.
  • Products ancillary to the sale of food and drink, including disposable items used for the preparation and storage of food (such as kitchen foil, food bags and cling film) but also basic products necessary to prepare and eat food and drink such as food containers, pots and pans, crockery, cutlery and other similar items.
  • Products for washing clothes and for cleaning and maintaining the home, including batteries, light bulbs and fuel. This also includes any products necessary for the upkeep of animals.
  • Toiletries, personal care and cosmetic products, including toilet rolls and sanitary products.
  • Pharmaceutical products.
  • Baby products including equipment, clothes and nappies.
  • Newspapers and magazines.
  • Stationery and greetings cards.
  • Printer Ink cartridges
  • Art and craft supplies
  • Pet food and other pet supplies.
  • Products for the maintenance of bicycles and cars. 
  • Services for the repair and maintenance of mobile telecommunications or IT devices.

In addition a supermarket may sell any item ordinarily sold in small stores such as convenience stores, corner shops and off licences.

These restrictions mean some shops will need to close some areas of their premises to customers. Some parts of large stores will display those “essential” goods that are allowed to continue to be sold while other parts may sell other “non-essential” goods. Where it is reasonably practicable for these to be clearly separated or demarcated then those non-essential goods may not be sold.

In large supermarkets, in most cases it will be clear that certain sections of the store must be cordoned off or emptied, and closed to the public. Where there are distinct parts of a store selling (for example) electrical goods, clothes, toys, games, or products for the garden, these should be closed to the public – and these products should not be sold.

Where such products do not have their own sections of the shop but are in distinct aisles, these should also be closed off or cordoned off if reasonably practicable. However, shops will need to make these arrangements in ways which allow safe circulation of customers around the premises, and so particularly in smaller premises we recognise that it will not always be possible to close whole aisles. 

In a mixed aisle which contains a combination of items listed above and other items, it is not compulsory for every non-listed item to be withdrawn from display or covered if this is not reasonably practicable.

Although the test of whether it is reasonably practicable to divide a store in this way is an objective one (based on what a reasonable person would think), the manager of a store will have an element of discretion due to that person best knowing the layout of the store. Supermarkets should not, however, re-organise their stores or how goods are displayed in order to make it more difficult to differentiate between essential and non-essential goods.

Shops selling multiple types of product: emergencies

The regulations also allow shops selling multiple product types to sell any other products that are in closed sections of the shop at alert level 4, if they are needed in an emergency or on compassionate grounds.

Examples of such products may include items that are not normally time-sensitive but can become essential in the event of a breakage such as microwaves or kettles, or may be needed to replace outgrown or heavily worn products such as children’s clothes or shoes.

Specific arrangements need to be put in place to sell products in these circumstances. Under these arrangements customers should be required to request a purchase of a specific product, and they should not have free access to the product in the shop or be able to browse a product range. Shops may provide appropriate information, such as signs and tannoy announcements, to advise customers that they should consider purchasing online but may request purchases in the shop in the circumstances described above. Shops are not, however, required to ask for evidence from the customer that demonstrates that these circumstances apply. The onus here is on customers to comply with the law by having a reasonable reason to leave home to purchase the product, not on the shop to establish whether the customer has a need for the product. 

We appreciate that retail staff can unfairly bear the brunt of the frustration of their customers. For this reason the Welsh Government will also communicate to the public their responsibilities and remind them not to challenge shop workers and that poor behaviour is unacceptable. We also advise shop managers to use announcements and other messaging to remind shoppers of the rules. 

Showrooms

Premises laid out as a showroom to demonstrate products for installation at a later date in residential property such as kitchen, bathroom, furniture or glazing, including those found within large multi-product homeware stores, are considered to be examples of “a business selling goods or services for sale or hire in retail premises”.  At alert level 4, such showrooms are required to be closed, unless they are a category of shop that provides goods or services that are explicitly allowed.  Click and collect or delivery sales can continue, and customers can physically come to stores where it is necessary for the essential upkeep of the household and there is no reasonable practicable alternative. But only under exceptional circumstances should customers be allowed to browse products within a showroom, whether those are businesses or private individuals. Access must be strictly appointment only and stores will be obligated to make customers aware that access is only for exceptional circumstances.

Click and collect and other services

Unlike in earlier lockdowns, at alert level 4 all shops can offer click and collect or similar services (such as drop-off services), whether or not they are required to close their premises. To reduce the number of journeys people make, all goods and services must  be ordered in advance online, by telephone or mail order.

All reasonable measures must be put in place to ensure that a 2 metre distance is maintained between persons on the premises, as well as people waiting to collect goods at the entrance to the premises or other designated external collection point. Shops should also ensure if possible that customers do not have to enter indoor sections of closed retail premises to collect goods, and that click and collect collection points are operated as safely as possible. For example, shops should:

  • put in place picking-up and dropping-off collection points where possible, rather than passing goods hand-to-hand
  • stagger collection times for customers collecting items
  • design their click and collect system to avoid/ reduce shared contact surfaces
  • continue to frequently clean any shared surfaces that are unavoidable and increase the use of hands-free technology to deliver their services

Please see the guidance on reasonable measures for more information.

Delivery services

All services on this list, whether or not required to close at alert level 4, are entitled to continue to use their premises for the purposes of managing the sale, hire or delivery of goods or services, if this is managed online, by telephone or mail order.

Returns

If your business is required to close then customers should not be permitted to enter the store to return goods. Retailers may wish to offer flexible dates for return of goods.

Telecommunications repairs

Mobile phone operators’ retail stores are permitted to stay open for the purpose of service enquiries and customer support, such as repairs. They should not be open for general sales. 

However, goods can be sold if they are needed in an emergency or on compassionate grounds. This might include helping customers stay connected if their sim card stops working or if the hardware or software malfunctions.

Specific arrangements need to be put in place to sell products in these circumstances. Under these arrangements customers should be required to request a purchase of a specific product, and they should not have free access to the products in the shop or be able to browse a product range.  Shops should have appropriate signage at the entrance to indicate that they are not open for general sales but for repairs and other essential services.

Shops are not, however, required to ask for evidence from the customer that demonstrates that these circumstances apply. The onus here is on customers to comply with the law by having a reasonable basis to leave home to purchase the product, not on the shop to establish whether the customer has a need for the product. 

Work carried out in people’s homes

Work carried out in people’s homes, for example by tradespeople, can continue as long as it is managed in a safe way and both the worker and household members are well and have no symptoms of coronavirus. However, we recommend that people consider whether the work can be safely deferred until they are no longer in alert level 4.

Like other businesses, people working in someone else’s home must take all reasonable measures to ensure to mitigate the risk of coronavirus spreading when working in other people’s households. Please see the guidance on reasonable measures and on working in other people’s homes for more information.

It is also recommended that no work should be carried out in any household where someone is isolating, unless it is to repair a fault which poses a direct risk to people’s safety – for example, emergency plumbing, or carry out an adaptation to allow that household to remain in their property. If attendance is unavoidable (because of an urgent or emergency situation), additional precautions should be taken to keep workers and householders completely separate from each other.  In these cases, Public Health Wales can provide advice to tradespeople and households. But no work should be carried out by a tradesperson who has coronavirus symptoms, however mild.

Businesses which are required to close may not conduct their services in other people’s homes.

Restaurants, cafes, bars and public houses

These are required to close at alert level 4, with the exceptions set out in the table further down this page. However, takeaway and food delivery services may remain open. This means people can continue to enter premises to access takeaway services, including delivery drivers, but all reasonable measures must be put in place by those responsible for carrying on the business to mitigate the risk of coronavirus spreading when working in other people’s households. This includes ensuring that 2 metres distance is maintained between persons on the premises, as well as people waiting to enter the premises.

Businesses are encouraged to take orders in advance online or by telephone, and businesses must not provide seating areas, indoors and outdoors, for customers to consume food or drink.

Restaurants, cafés and pubs which do not otherwise offer delivery and hot food takeaway are able to offer such services at alert level 4.

People must not consume food or drinks on site at restaurants, cafés or pubs whilst waiting for takeaway food.

Those venues offering takeaway or delivery services must not include alcoholic beverages in this list if their licence does not already permit.

Maintenance of premises

All services on this list, whether or not required to close, can be accessed by the site owners or managers, or people authorised by them, for the purpose of maintenance, repairs or other work to ensure readiness to reopen at a point where this is permitted.

Compliance

Everyone must comply with the restrictions and requirements set out in the Regulations. A business operating in contravention of the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No 5) (Wales) Regulations 2020 will be committing an offence, which may attract a fine which is not limited on the statutory scales. 

In addition, businesses or premises which are found not to be taking all reasonable measures to mitigate the risk of spreading coronavirus are subject to a separate enforcement regime which can ultimately result in the issuing of a closure notice.

Financial support

Businesses and premises that must close at level 4

Food and drink

Business, premises or place

Exceptions

Restaurants bars and public houses, including within hotels and members’ clubs

Food delivery and takeaway can continue and businesses which only provided food for consumption on their premises can now provide takeaway food as a new activity supported by the new permitted development right.

This covers the provision of hot or cold food that has been prepared for consumers for collection or delivery to be consumed, reheated or cooked by consumers off the premises.

Food can also be provided to homeless people, including for consumption on site.

A bar or public house may sell drinks to take away but only if licensed to do so.

Cafés and canteens

Food delivery and takeaway can continue (and as above). 

Cafés and canteens at hospitals, care homes, schools or within accommodation provided for students; prison and military canteens. 

Cafes and canteens at other workplaces, where there is no practical alternative for staff at that workplace to obtain food.

Food and drink can also be provided to homeless people, including for consumption on site.

Retail

Business, premises or place

Exceptions

All retail with notable exceptions as listed in other column

Examples of retailers that would be closed include homeware stores, clothing shops and gift shops.

Businesses which sell a range of products such as supermarkets may only sell those items that a business listed in the exceptions column would generally sell. This means for example that supermarkets may not sell most homeware items, electrical goods and clothing.

Retailers that are required to close can offer a click and collect service if practical to do so.

Food and drink shops

Pharmacies and chemists, including non-dispensing pharmacies 

Petrol stations

Automatic car washes

Bicycle shops

Hardware shops, shops selling building supplies and equipment, plant and tool hire

Veterinary surgeries and pet shops

Newsagents

Off-licences and licensed shops selling alcohol, including those within breweries

Laundrettes and dry cleaners

Post Offices

Vehicle rental services

Car garages and repair shops, including MOT services

High street banks, building societies, short-term loan providers, credit unions and cash points

Agricultural or aquacultural supplies shops

Livestock markets or auctions

Shops offering maintenance or repair services for telephones or IT equipment

 

Storage and distribution facilities, including delivery drop off points

Medical services (such as dental surgeries, opticians and audiology clinics, physiotherapy clinics, chiropody and podiatry clinics, and other professional vocational medical services)

Money transmission services, savings clubs, cash points, currency exchanges, and cheque cashing services to access or deposit money.

Auction houses

Livestock auctions

Car showrooms and dealerships

 

Hair salons and barbers

 

Estate or letting agents, developer and sales offices

 

Close contact services – this includes beauty therapists, beauty advanced practices treatment practitioners, make-up artists, nail service technicians, reflexologists, aesthetics, holistic, wellbeing and other practitioners; acupuncture and  electrocautery practitioners and massage therapists including sports and clinical massage therapists.  

It also includes establishments providing tanning services, body piercings, tattooing and similar services.

Treatments or services which are providing medical treatments for illness or injury. 

These would include therapists who are working alongside or in conjunction with a statutory regulated health professional - for example, a sports therapist based in a clinic owned by an osteopath, or working alongside doctors or nurses in a hospital or hospice to help support patients receiving medical treatment. Services that provide non-cosmetic laser / IPL medical treatment for illness or injury would also be permitted.

Betting shops

 

Shopping centres, arcades and indoor or outdoor markets

These may be open to the public to the extent that this is required for access to a business or service that is allowed to remain open.

Accommodation

Business, premises or place

Exceptions

Hotels, hostels, B&Bs, campsites and boarding houses for commercial use

Where people live in these as interim abodes whilst their main residence is unavailable, or they live in them as their main residence they may continue to do so if they are doing so as of the moment when they enter Level 4.

Non-UK residents who are unable to travel to their country of residence during this period can continue to stay in hotels or similar where required.

People who are unable to move into a new home due to the current restrictions can also stay at hotels or other accommodation in this category.

Accommodation businesses that are closed may also provide services for any other purpose as requested or authorised by a local authority or the Welsh Ministers

Where people continue to stay in an accommodation business that is otherwise closed, room service food and drink can still be provided.

These businesses can also continue to provide services online, by telephone, or by post. Please see the sector-specific guidance for more information.

Caravan parks/sites for commercial uses

Where people live permanently in caravan parks or are staying in caravan parks as interim abodes where their primary residence is not available, they may continue to do so if they are doing so as of the moment when they enter Level 4.

People who are unable to move into a new home due to the current restrictions can also stay at accommodation in this category.

Accommodation businesses that are closed may also provide services for any other purpose as requested or authorised by a local authority or the Welsh Ministers

These businesses can also continue to provide services online, by telephone, or by post.

Non-residential institutions

Business, premises or place

Exceptions

Community centres, youth centres and similar

These may be opened to provide essential voluntary services. They are also allowed to open to provide public services at the request of a local authority or the Welsh Ministers. Examples of services for which they might open include:

  • blood donations,
  • polling stations
  • food banks
  • the conduct of mass coronavirus testing or vaccinations
  • childcare
  • mental health services
  • organisations who support those suffering from substance misuse or addiction

Individual businesses cannot apply for an exception to continue trading.

Assembly and leisure

Business, premises or place

Exceptions

Libraries

These may be opened for any purpose requested or authorised by a local authority or the Welsh Ministers.

Libraries in hospitals and educational establishments may remain open for those permitted to access them.

Museums, galleries and archive services

These may be opened at the request of a local authority or the Welsh Ministers. Individual businesses cannot apply for an exception to continue trading.

Nightclubs

These may be opened if requested or authorised by a local authority or the Welsh Ministers. Individual businesses cannot apply for an exception to continue trading.

Cinemas, theatres and concert halls

Performances may be broadcast without an audience, whether over the internet or as part of a radio or television broadcast. It is recommended that Public Health Wales guidelines are followed to ensure the safety of staff taking part.

These may be opened if requested or authorised by a local authority or the Welsh Ministers. Individual businesses cannot apply for an exception to continue trading.

Bingo halls

Sessions may be broadcast without an audience, whether over the internet or as part of a radio or television broadcast. It is recommended that Public Health Wales guidelines are followed to ensure the safety of staff taking part.

These may be opened if requested or authorised by a local authority or the Welsh Ministers. Individual businesses cannot apply for an exception to continue trading.

Casinos and betting shops

These may be opened if requested or authorised by a local authority or the Welsh Ministers. Individual businesses cannot apply for an exception to continue trading.

Spas and massage parlours

These may be opened if requested or authorised by a local authority or the Welsh Ministers. Individual businesses cannot apply for an exception to continue trading.

Sexual entertainment venues (within the meaning given by paragraph 2A of Schedule 3 to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 (1982 c. 30. Paragraph 2A of Schedule 3 was inserted by section 27(3) of the Policing and Crime Act 2009 (c. 26).)

 

Venues for conferences and business events

These may be opened if requested or authorised by a local authority or the Welsh Ministers. Individual businesses cannot apply for an exception to continue trading.

Recreation

Business, premises or place

Exceptions

Swimming Pools

These may be opened if requested or authorised by a local authority or the Welsh Ministers. Individual businesses cannot apply for an exception to continue trading.

Indoor fitness studios, gyms, spas or other indoor leisure centres or facilities.

Classes may be broadcast without an audience, whether over the internet or as part of a radio or television broadcast. It is recommended that Public Health Wales guidelines are followed to ensure the safety of staff taking part.

These may be opened if requested or authorised by a local authority or the Welsh Ministers. Individual businesses cannot apply for an exception to continue trading.

Amusement arcades, bowling alleys, soft play centres, trampolining centres and similar

These may be opened if requested or authorised by a local authority or the Welsh Ministers. Individual businesses cannot apply for an exception to continue trading.

Skating rinks and skate parks

These may be opened if requested or authorised by a local authority or the Welsh Ministers. Individual businesses cannot apply for an exception to continue trading.

Funfairs (whether outdoors or indoors), amusement parks or theme parks.

These may be opened if requested or authorised by a local authority or the Welsh Ministers. Individual businesses cannot apply for an exception to continue trading.

Enclosed sports courts and pitches (whether outdoors or indoors), including golf courses, tennis courts, skating ramps, basketball courts and other similar venues.

These may be opened if requested or authorised by a local authority or the Welsh Ministers. Individual businesses cannot apply for an exception to continue trading.

Visitor attractions

These may be opened if requested or authorised by a local authority or the Welsh Ministers. Individual businesses cannot apply for an exception to continue trading.

Providers of funeral services such as funeral directors and funeral homes conducting funerals may remain open, subject to guidelines as mentioned in the table above.