Published: 18:53, 21 March 2020
| Updated: 18:55, 21 March 2020
Retail giant John Lewis has announced it is to temporarily close all of its Kent stores at close of business on Monday.
The company, which has it's flagship Kent store at Bluewater and others in Ashford and Tunbridge Wells, said it had kept its shops open for as long as possible during the coronavirus outbreak.
It's Waitrose food store at Bluewater will also be closed until further notice, though other food halls would remain open.
It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the closure of bars, restaurants, nightclubs, cinemas and leisure centres with immediate effect, and shoppers were urged to stop panic buying at supermarkets across the county.
The PM outlined the drastic measures to protect the country from the spread of coronavirus which has already claimed the lives of 184 people in the UK, including the first case in Kent yesterday.
A statement from John Lewis said its thoughts were with all those affected by the unprecedented situation.
It went on to say: "We have kept our shops open as long as possible because we know how important a role they play to you and your local communities.
"Due to the unfolding situation with Coronavirus (Covid-19), we're very sad to have to let you know we'll be temporarily closing John Lewis shops from the end of the day on Monday 23 March.
"For 155 years, our mission has been to serve you – and rest assured, that will continue."
Its online arm will still be operating, as will most of its Waitrose food halls, except Bluewater, Southampton and Watford.
John Lewis added: "Our shop Partners will be joining their colleagues at Waitrose, as we play our part to help feed the nation during this time. Our Waitrose shops have introduced special opening hours and have announced a £1million community support fund which will be used to help the most isolated and vulnerable members of our communities.
"We know the coming days and weeks will be filled with uncertainty and we want to help support you and your families as best we can. We'll be exploring ways to offer Partner-led services remotely, which could include nursery or wellbeing advice, and craft and cookery classes provided by Partners online, or on one to one calls.
"When the time is right, we look forward to welcoming you back into our shops.
"Take care of yourselves, your loved ones and your communities."