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Boris Johnson’s Christmas Covid curbs may cost retailers £4billion in lost trade – with pubs, hotels and restaurants hit for £10billion, experts warned last night.

Business leaders still reeling from two previous lockdowns were banking on the five-day Yuletide amnesty – dramatically scrapped by the PM today.

Retail chiefs called the new lockdown a “hammer blow” to Covid-hit shops, now facing the loss of more than £2billion a week in sales over the festive fortnight.

Helen Dickinson of the British Retail Consortium said: “We know the Government has got difficult decisions to make and the Covid situation is very fast-moving but this is hugely regrettable news.

“Retailers invested hundreds of millions making shops Covid-secure and Sage experts’ advice has been that closing non-essential retail has a minimal impact on the virus spread.

“The stop-start Government approach is deeply unhelpful for businesses and the consequences of this will be severe.

“The decision, only two weeks after the end of the last national lockdown, is right in the middle of peak trading – which so many depend on to power a recovery.

“Faced with this – and the prospect of losing £2billion per week in sales for the third time this year – many businesses will be in serious difficulty and many thousands of jobs could be at risk. The Government has to offer additional financial support to help these businesses get back on an even keel.

“An extension to business rates relief in 2021 is the best place to start.”

The Centre for Retail Research, which forecast shop losses of £2.3billion a week over the crucial fortnight, said: “This is a terrific blow to the economy.

“Meals will have been booked at pubs and restaurants everywhere across the South-East. These establishments will now have to throw all that food away.”

The New West End Company, representing traders in main London shopping streets, called the Government’s on-off approach “catastrophic for businesses”.

Its head, Jace Tyrrell, went on: “The last-minute introduction to Tier 3 saw hospitality businesses throw money down the drain from unused stock and expenses in ensuring they are Covid-secure.

“This latest last-minute decision to close non-essential retailers with less than a day’s notice will see them fighting that same battle. We call on the Government to provide vital financial support to ­compensate these viable businesses.

“And we urge it to introduce a more solid approach from the New Year to prevent businesses scrambling to meet restriction changes.”

Boris Johnson cancels Christmas meet-ups for millions in south east of England

Shoppers packed high streets in an 11th-hour spree yesterday – but there are fears it will not be enough to save many struggling stores from following fallen giants such as Topshop and Debenhams.

Those scrambling for bargains included Tory Cabinet minister Michael Gove, who was seen laden with bags near London’s Ritz hotel about 90 minutes after the Prime Minister’s bombshell.

But many parents were heartbroken at missing out on gifts for their children when the deadline hit.

Schoolboy Maurice Tucker said outside Argos in Romford, East London: “As staff were shutting the doors, there were crying women saying, ‘I haven’t got any presents for my kids’.”

Another shopper said: “Distraught-looking people were running in with Christmas lists – obviously having thought they had all week to sort presents out and then finding they had about an hour.”

To compound shoppers’ misery, traders say chaos at ports may prevent thousands of gifts arriving in time for Christmas.