McDonald's has announced it is closing all of its UK and Ireland restaurants amid the coronavirus crisis.
The closures will come in force from 7pm tonight (Monday, March 23).
McDonald's had previously decided to close indoor seating areas and offer customers drive-thru or takeaway services only.
However, CEO Paul Pomroy has now declared that it isn't safe for the chain to continue operating in this way.
In a statement on the McDonald's website, he announced: "Over the last 24 hours, it has become clear that maintaining safe social distancing whilst operating busy takeaway and Drive Thru restaurants is increasingly difficult and therefore we have taken the decision to close every restaurant in the UK and Ireland by 7pm on Monday 23rd March."
Paul added: "We have not taken this decision lightly and know that our restaurants have been playing an important role in the community providing hundreds of thousands of free drinks to frontline health and social workers and emergency services personnel."
He continued: "But I have been clear throughout this that we would only continue to operate whilst it was safe for our people and together with our franchisees, we feel now is the time to make this decision to temporarily close."
Paul said he would be "working closely with community groups across the UK and Ireland to distribute food from our restaurants to those most in need".
An update from McDonald’s UK and Ireland — See you soon pic.twitter.com/43moFRrWRR
— McDonald's UK (@McDonaldsUK) March 22, 2020
He also announced one final offer for frontline health workers.
The CEO revealed: "Ahead of closing, we will ensure frontline health workers and emergency services personnel do not have to pay for any food or drink in our restaurants on sight of their work pass."
In bad news for Big Mac fans, McDonald's will not be available to order via Uber Eats.
A rep confirmed to Metro that "all services" will shut down from 7pm tonight.
Ahead of closing, we will ensure frontline health workers and emergency services personnel do not have to pay for any food or drink in our restaurants on sight of their work pass.
Pomroy added: "I want to thank every single one of our 135,000 employees. I am so proud of them all for adapting so quickly to a constantly evolving work environment, taking every step to keep our customers, couriers and teams safe and looking after each other so very well."
McDonald's fans were quick to praise the chain for making the move.
"Well done McDonald's taking decisive and correct action," tweeted one.
Another said: "Thank you for being more responsible than our government."
Last week, Pomroy revealed that McDonald's would remain open for "as long as it is safe to do so".
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