Are garden centres allowed to stay open during England’s national lockdown?

England’s second national lockdown comes into force this Thursday, in an attempt to bring the infection rate down before Christmas.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted a full lockdown was necessary to prevent a “medical and moral disaster” for the NHS.

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But will garden centres close? Here’s what you need to know.

What are the new restrictions and when are they being implemented?

The harsher restrictions start on 5 November and will last for a month until 2 December, when it’s expected that the government will move regions back into something like the previous tiered system.

Under the new lockdown, the UK Government has ordered certain businesses to close to reduce social contact and mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Hospitality venues, entertainment venues, leisure centres and non-essential shops are among the list of businesses that will be forced to close, with schools, colleges and universities staying open.

Did garden centres close during the first lockdown?

Garden centres were told to close during the first lockdown in the spring, but they were the first businesses permitted to reopen to the public, with social distancing measures in place, just a couple of months later.

As the restrictions under the new lockdown are slightly different, many people are wondering if garden centres can remain open.

Will garden centres stay open during England’s lockdown?

When the second lockdown was first announced, it wasn’t clear if the new rules would include garden centres since they were ordered to close during the March lockdown.

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They reopened again in May - three weeks before other non-essential retailers.

But, it’s good news for gardeners this time round as it has now been clarified that the centres will be permitted to operate under the new lockdown from 5 November.

This is because the government has classed garden centres as providing “essential goods and services”.

The government's guidance on the new restrictions, published on 31 October, reads: "Food shops, supermarkets, garden centres and certain other retailers providing essential goods and services can remain open.

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"Essential retail should follow COVID-secure guidelines to protect customers, visitors and workers."

The news has been welcomed by the industry after garden centres missed the peak of their sales during the particularly nice spring weather, meaning one in three growers now face financial difficulties.

The Horticultural Trade Association (HTA) said the pandemic could end up costing the UK’s gardening industry £200 million, as thousands of plants grown for the summer time had to be binned.

Why are garden centres counted as ‘essential businesses’?

At the time of the first lockdown, the HTA successfully worked with the governments in Wales and England to allow garden centres to reopen, arguing that the open layouts made social distancing easier so transmission of the virus was likely to be low.

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This may be why the UK Government has chosen to allow garden centres to stay open during this lockdown period.

It might also have sought to categorise garden centres as “essential” because it’s known that growing and looking after plants helps to relieve feelings of stress - a lot of which could be caused by the pandemic.