Non-essential shops to reopen on 15 June, government confirms as lockdown eased further

Enforcement notices can be issued if retailers fail to abide by government guidance to prevent Covid-19 spread

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 09 June 2020 18:11
Non-essential shops to reopen on 15 June, government confirms as lockdown eased further

Non-essential retailers will be able to open their doors to shoppers from 15 June, business secretary Alok Sharma has confirmed.

High-street shops forced to close due to the coronavirus pandemic will be able to “spring back to life” if they have ensured staff and shoppers can be kept safe from the virus, in the latest move to ease lockdown measures.

However, pubs and restaurants will have to wait until next month, Mr Sharma said, dashing hopes that food and drink establishments could open ahead of schedule.

Speaking at the Downing Street press conference, Mr Sharma said: “I can confirm today that retail outlets which have been required to be closed will be able to open their doors again from Monday 15 June so long as they comply with the Covid-secure guidelines we published on 25 May.

“This is the latest step in the careful restarting of our economy and will enable high streets up and down the country to spring back to life.”

If shops fail to follow social distancing guidance, enforcement notices can be issued to order them to shut their doors again, he said.

However pubs, restaurants and bars must remain closed until next month, along with hairdressers, barbers and nail salons.

Mr Sharma said: “I know there’s been a lot of speculation about when we might be able to reopen these parts of the economy and I completely understand why we’re all so keen to get them back up and running, and I absolutely share that enthusiasm.

“But we continue to follow the road map which set out our ambition to reopen these sectors from 4 July at the earliest.”

The business secretary faced a barrage of questions on whether the 2m social distancing rule could be relaxed to prevent catastrophic job losses in the hospitality sector.

UK Hospitality, the trade body, estimated that outlets would be able to make about 30 per cent of normal revenues with the 2m rule in place, whereas 1m would mean around 70 per cent.

The World Health Organisation WHO says 1m is safe, which has been adopted in countries such as Denmark, France and Singapore, whereas the UK, Canada and Spain have opted for a 2m rule.

“When it is safe to do so, we will see whether you can move to a shorter distance but ultimately we keep all of these things under review,” Mr Sharma said.

“There are other countries in the world that have moved from 2m to closer distances. Of course, they are further along in terms of their road map, in terms of opening up businesses.

“We are taking a cautious view on this. I completely understand why for economic reasons businesses will want to have a look at this 2m rule.”

Lucy Powell, the shadow business minister, welcomed the news that struggling high-street businesses would be able to lift their shutters once more.

She added: “It’s important though that employers keep their staff protected, and that they and the public have confidence in the measures ministers have set out to limit the spread of this virus as the lockdown is eased.

“Many challenges remain for our high streets. Ministers must decide on clear guidelines for hospitality businesses reopening as soon as possible so bars, pubs, restaurants and cafes can have certainty.”

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, hailed the move and said retailers were working hard to install Perspex screens and hygiene systems to keep shoppers safe.

“Nonetheless, the challenge for these stores is not over,” she said.

“Many firms will continue to struggle as the 2m rule will limit sales while retailers continue to face the same rent and other fixed costs.

“If the government is to limit retailers in this way, it must be prepared to provide an ongoing package of support to address the economic difficulties they will face.”

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