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Coronavirus: High Street shops preparing ways to reopen

Queueing shoppers

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Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Trade figures have issued new social distancing guidelines for shops to prepare for any easing of the lockdown.

The British Retail Consortium and Usdaw’s advice includes providing hand sanitiser for customers.

Helen Dickinson, the BRC’s boss, said: “The safety and wellbeing of retail colleagues and customers remains the highest priority.”

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Sunday that “careful steps” will be needed when easing the lockdown.

The industry body and the union issued the advice to non-food retailers, closely based on what is already happening in many food stores. Some suggestions include:

  • limiting the number of people in-store at any one time
  • encouraging customers to shop alone where possible
  • scheduling deliveries to avoid crowding
  • cleaning door handles, lift buttons and hand rails regularly
  • using floor markings to remind customers to maintain a distance of 2m

Shops that were deemed “non-essential” have been shut since the government set out strict new measures to tackle the spread of coronavirus on 23 March.

Those allowed to trade under lockdown include supermarkets, pharmacies, newsagents and post offices.

Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis said that “Non-food retail should only start trading again when expert public health advice agrees.

“However, we need to be ready and we need to make sure that the proper preparations and measures are put in place.”

Companies that had temporarily shut stores are starting to reopen amid lockdown measures, after introducing new social distancing controls.

DIY chain Homebase reopened 20 of its UK stores for a trial period on Saturday, following the lead of its competitor B&Q.

Hardware shops were included on the government’s list of essential retailers that were allowed to trade under the restrictions and Homebase customers could continue to shop online.

The boss of UK shoe repair firm Timpson, James Timpson, said on social media that it will reopen 40 of its outlets based in supermarkets, which are classified as essential retailers, next week.

Beyond the retail sector, low cost airline Wizz Air has also announced plans to restart some flights from Luton Airport from 1 May, although the Foreign Office is still advising against all but essential journeys.

The company is introducing what it calls “enhanced” health and safety measures. Cabin crew will wear masks and gloves, while passengers will be given sanitising wipes.

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Getty Images

Image caption

Wizz Air managing director Owain Jones said that the flights will provide an “essential service”

The airline also said it would introduce distancing measures, but did not give any further details.

Several housebuilders such as Taylor Wimpey and Vistry have also announced they will return to work in May.

Taylor Wimpey plans to restart work on most of its building sites across England and Wales next month. Its staff will follow new safety guidelines, while subcontractor work will resume afterwards.

Vistry – formerly Bovis Homes – announced construction would resume on most of its “partnership sites”, which are typically affordable housing projects, from Monday.

The firm added that a “significant” number of private housing construction sites would also reopen.

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