HAMPSHIRE'S hospitality and retail sectors are reeling from the government's decision to impose a new national lockdown.

Pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops will be forced to close for at least a month from Thursday in a bid to stem an alarming rise in coronavirus rates.

Town and city centres will once again see empty streets and deserted car parks.

Daily Echo:

The new lockdown will disrupt the build-up to Christmas - traditionally the most lucrative time of the year for shops, pubs and eateries.

Giles Semper, executive director of Go!Southampton, the Business Improvement District (BID) for Southampton, said: "This is obviously devastating news for the city’s businesses.

"We had returned to some kind of normal, thanks to the huge efforts made by retailers and leisure/hospitality operators to be compliant with the rules.

"Our local shoppers had returned, you only had to look at the numbers on Above Bar Street on most days.

"The hardest thing with the new lockdown is its timing - it crashes into the preparations for Christmas.

"By the time we come out Christmas will almost be upon us."

The British Retail Association also cited the potential impact on cities such as Southampton.

Chief executive Andrew Goodacre said: "This second lockdown could not be at a worse time for independent retailers as we approach the crucial festive period.

"Christmas shopping was already starting and will now end up being carried out online.

“We lost 25% of independent retailers after the last lockdown, and without meaningful support the sector will be decimated by further lockdowns.”

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Steve Brine, Tory MP for Winchester and Chandler's Ford, described the latest shutdown as a"disaster and a failure".

He added: "The long lockdown in the spring led to really low numbers in June-July but we didn’t consolidate and learn from the seemingly successful East Asian approach.

"That saw strict border controls to prevent the re-introduction of infection and a test, track and isolate system that was able to tackle flare-ups right away, when rates were manageable."

Royston Smith, Tory MP for Southampton Itchen, added: "Many businesses will fail and illnesses other than Covid-19 will go undiagnosed and untreated."

The British Beer & Pub Association, which represents many watering holes in the Southampton area, said many pubs and breweries would be lost unless they received the necessary support from the government.

Chief executive Emma McClarkin said: "This could be the final straw."