The British Heart Foundation announced on Thursday 19 March that it will be closing its stores to protect staff, volunteers and customers from the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
The charity, which raises money for research into heart and circulatory disease, will be taking the new measures with immediate effect.
Which stores are closing?
All 750 of the British Heart Foundation’s stores will be closed.
According to the statement on the charity’s website, this move has been made “ in line with the Government’s latest advice and in response to the emerging evidence that people with many heart and circulatory diseases are at greater risk of complications if they develop COVID-19.”
Allison Swaine-Hughes, Retail Director at the British Heart Foundation, explained the decision:
“The British Heart Foundation exists to support the millions of people in the UK living with heart and circulatory diseases and it’s clear some people with these conditions are particularly vulnerable to complications if they develop COVID-19.
"As significant numbers of our volunteers, staff, customers and donors are in a high-risk group or are directly affected by heart and circulatory disease, it’s only right that we close our 750 shops and stores.
"Without the invaluable contributions of our staff and volunteers, it is not possible for us to operate normally.”
Will their delivery and collection services still run?
For those who are currently awaiting a delivery, the charity will attempt to fulfil all orders by the end of Friday 20 March, or to provide a full refund. Customers with queries have been advised to contact the customer service team, who are available from 9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday.
The charity will also be suspending its collection service with immediate effect, and have asked that people refrain from leaving donations outside British Heart Foundation stores, as they will not be picked up.
The company also asks that customers try to retain anything which they had planned to donate until the stores are able to open again.
“Once back up and running we will be hugely grateful to receive all items," it said.
The British Heart Foundation’s eBay store will continue to operate as normal, for the time being.
How long will they be closed for?
Beginning on Thursday 19 March, all of the British Heart Foundation’s stores will be closed for “at least two weeks”, according to the statement on the charity’s website.
Swaine-Hughes said, “We hope to re-open all shops as soon as it is safe to do so.”
Coronavirus: the facts
What is coronavirus?
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can affect lungs and airways. It is caused by a virus called coronavirus.
What caused coronavirus?
The outbreak started in Wuhan in China in December 2019 and it is thought that the virus, like others of its kind, has come from animals.
How is it spread?
As this is such a new illness, experts still aren’t sure how it is spread. But.similar viruses are spread in cough droplets. Therefore covering your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing, and disposing of used tissues straight away is advised. Viruses like coronavirus cannot live outside the body for very long.
What are the symptoms?
The NHS states that the symptoms are: a dry cough, high temperature and shortness of breath - but these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness. Look out for flu-like symptoms, such as aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose and a sore throat. It’s important to remember that some people may become infected but won’t develop any symptoms or feel unwell.
What precautions can be taken?
Washing your hands with soap and water thoroughly. The NHS also advises to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze; put used tissues in the bin immediately and try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell. Also avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth unless your hands are clean.
As of Monday 16 March the government advised that everyone should be observing social distancing - avoiding unnecessary travel and working from home where possible. Anyone with a cough or cold symptoms now needs to self-isolate with their entire household for 14 days.
The government has also advised against going to the pub, out for dinner or partaking in any socialising with large groups. This has caused a number of closures across the country. Schools will close from Friday 20 March for the foreseeable future and exams have been cancelled.
The over 70s or anyone who is vulnerable or living with an underlying illness are being asked to be extra careful and stay at home to self-isolate.
For more information on government advice, please check their website.
Should I avoid public places?
The advice now is to avoid public places and any non-essential travel. Travel abroad is also being advised against for the next 30 days at least, and many European countries have closed their borders.
What should I do if I feel unwell?
Don’t go to your GP but instead call NHS 111 or look online at the coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and what to do next.
When to call NHS 111
NHS 111 should be used if you feel unwell with coronavirus symptoms, have been in a country with a high risk of coronavirus in the last 14 days or if you have been in close contact with someone with the virus.
Sources: World Health Organisation and NHS