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Decision on opening shops should be based on safety not size, says BRC

Lauretta Roberts
10 May 2020

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this evening that "some" non-essential shops may be allowed to re-open from 1 June and the BRC has urged that the decision over which should open first should be based on safety and not size.

More details are expected tomorrow (Monday 11 May) on the Prime Minister's multi-phased roadmap to ease lockdown, but other countries have opted to allow smaller retailers to open first before larger outlets.

British Retail Consortium CEO Helen Dickinson told the BBC she expects the road map to include practical measures similar to her organisation’s already published guidance for staff and customer safety.

The BRC's safety guidance includes measures such as limiting customer numbers in-store, closing fitting rooms, using floor markings and installing sneeze guards at checkouts saying such measures would “give us confidence as shoppers, members of the public, that we can go out to shop”.

Measures such as these are easier to install in larger stores and retailers such as John Lewis and Next are believed to be prioritising their larger stores outside of city centres (such as open air retail parks) to be opened first, when they are permitted to do so.

Johnson has told workers who are unable to work at home that they are now permitted to return to work, but those who can work from home must continue to do so. This is likely to see manufacturers and outdoor workers return when their employers say it is safe to do so, however use of public transport should be limited with people being encouraged to travel by car, bike or foot where possible.

However British Property Federation CEO Melanie Leech said: "We urgently need the Government to publish the detail in its back-to-work papers and what public health guidance will apply as more people return to their places of work and have more freedom to enjoy public spaces.

"The overwhelming priority is to make sure that people are safe, but businesses will need time to prepare for and apply this guidance. As property owners and managers we have a critical role to play and we will work with our tenants in offices, warehouses and shops to support them and to make sure that the public spaces we are responsible for are safely managed.”

The Prime Minister has also relaxed guidance on going outside allowing people to take exercise more than once a day as long as they stay in their household group. Driving to a location to take exercise is also permitted.

Some school children, starting with reception, year one and year six, in primary schools may be allowed to return from 1 June as well.

However these measures will only be permitted if the rate of infections remains under control and Johnson has said any relaxation of the rules may be rolled back if the infection rate rises too quickly.

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