FURNITURE retailer IKEA has closed all of its UK and Ireland stores.

The Swedish firm said it was taking the step, which came into force at 6pm on Friday, as a 'precautionary measure' as the risk of Covid-19 grows.

Peter Jelkeby, country retail manager and chief sustainability officer, UK and Ireland, said: "These are extraordinary times, and our absolute priority is to ensure the health and safety of our customers and co-workers.

"As a precautionary measure against the ongoing risk of COVID-19, we have decided that, at 6pm on Friday 20th March, we will temporarily close all the IKEA stores across the UK and Ireland to customers."

Shoppers can still use the IKEA website and even request contact-free deliveries, he said.

There is no date confirmed for re-opening of stores, and Mr Jelkeby thanked those working at stores, which include Exeter and Bristol.

"Co-workers are at the heart of the IKEA business and we are committed to supporting them in the best possible way during this complex and fast-evolving situation," he added.

"We would like to thank our co-workers and partners for their dedication and hard work through these unprecedented times.

"We look forward to welcoming you back to our stores soon and we thank you for your understanding during these extraordinary circumstances."