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Larger non-essential retailers may not be able to open until end of June
06 May 2020

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce a relaxation of the UK's COVID-19 lockdown on Sunday, with larger "non-essential" retailers not opening until 29 June as part of a five-phase plan.

According to the plan seen by some business leaders, non-essential retail opening falls into phase three, which commences at the end of June and only includes those retailers with street entrances (i.e. those on high streets or in out of town retail parks). Many retailers have already said they would focus on such locations first in any case as it allows for social distancing and is easier for workers to get to work without using public transport.

Smaller non-essential retailers fall into phase one of the plan, which would enable them to open, with appropriate social distancing measures in place, from 8 June. However enclosed shopping centres may not be able to open until August.

In phase one of the lockdown lifting, which commences 18 May, garden centres, repair shops and hardware stores will be permitted to open and outdoor workers may return to work.

In terms of office workers, they will continue to be encouraged to work from home, with social distancing measures to be applied in offices where workers must attend, and staggered working times to be implemented to avoid stress on public transport.

As it stands, schools will not re-open fully until the new academic year, though reports suggest that some school years (such as primary school children in year six) may get a chance to return in June. There had been a widespread expectation that schools would re-open on 1 June but health secretary Matt Hancock has warned today this may not be the case.

Sources who have seen the guidelines stress they have not been finalised and are subject to change depending on how well or otherwise the lifting of restrictions goes. In Germany there is talk of its lockdown lifting potentially being accelerated since so far infection rates have not risen greatly after it relaxed its measure, though scientists state is is too early to make a judgement.

The Daily Telegraph has also reported today (6 May) that the Prime Minister is not expected to immediately relax the rules on retail in his speech on Sunday. The newspaper has said: "Although there have been multiple reports about non-essential shops like gardening centres re-opening, Mr Johnson is not expected to change the rules on other retail yet – although chains like B&Q have already reopened some stores."

The lockdown lifting plan seen by looks as follows:

PHASE 1 – From 18 May

Phase 1 of the roadmap will lift the following restrictions:

  • Construction workers, landscape gardeners and other outdoor workers may return to work
  • Garden centres, repair shops and hardware stores may reopen
  • Fitness & sport activities (non-contact) in small groups (max of 4 people) may resume (golf included)
  • People may meet up with friends and family in small groups outdoors (size of a "small group" is defined as up to 4 people)
  • The majority of regular health services will resume
  • Outdoor public amenities and tourism sites may reopen (beaches & mountain walks)

*NOTE - social distancing guidelines will remain in operation for all

PHASE 2 – From 8 June

Phase 2 of the roadmap will lift the following restrictions:

  • Specific retail hours will be allocated for those currently cocooning
  • Home visits will be allowed to those cocooning, by a small number of persons for a short period of time
  • Up to 4 people may visit another household for a short period of time
  • Slightly larger family gatherings at funerals will be permitted (limited to maximum safe social distancing can still be applied)
  • Solitary workers and workers that can maintain social distancing can return to work
  • Small retail outlets that can control staff and customer numbers and maintain social distancing may reopen
  • Public libraries will reopen
  • Outdoor sporting activities, involving small group training (no matches) can recommenced (no contact still allowed)

PHASE 3 – From 29 June

Phase 3 of the roadmap will lift the following restrictions:

  • Commence opening of creches and pre-schools for children of essential workers
  • Commence a phased approach to visiting at hospitals and other healthcare settings
  • Businesses where employees have low levels of daily interaction may reopen
  • Phase in the opening of all other non-essential retail outlets, restricting customer numbers and applying social distancing (limited to retail outlets with street level entrance and exit, i.e. not in shopping centres)
  • Playgrounds will be reopened
  • "Behind closed doors" sporting events may recommence
  • Cafes and restaurants may reopen as long as social distancing is maintained

PHASE 4 – From 20 July

Phase 4 of the roadmap will lift the following restrictions:

  • Larger household visits will be permitted
  • Small social gatherings will be permitted (baptisms, small weddings etc.)
  • Creches and pre-schools will reopen for all other children
  • Other employees return to work - beginning with those who cannot work remotely and then staggering the working times to ensure social distancing
  • Barbers and hairdressers may reopen
  • Museums and other cultural outlets may reopen
  • Sports teams may recommence and public swimming pools may reopen
  • Hotels and other hospitality units may reopen based on limited occupancy. Hotel bars are to remain closed

PHASE 5 – From 10 August

Phase 5 of the roadmap will lift the following restrictions:

  • Social gatherings will be permitted except for large gathering and gatherings in households of suspect cases
  • Schools and colleges will reopen on a phased basis and will recommence in the new academic year
  • Normal hospital and other residential setting visits will be allowed
  • All employees may return to work on normal onsite arrangements, except organisations that cannot maintain social distancing plans
  • Enclosed shopping centres may reopen
  • Tattoo and piercing parlours may reopen
  • Cinemas may reopen
  • Close contact physical sports may recommence (rugby, boxing etc.)
  • Gyms and dance studios may reopen
  • Mass sporting events may recommence where social distancing can be maintained
  • Indoor recreational venues may reopen (bowling, bingo etc.)
  • Small festivals and other outdoor cultural events may resume

Should the spread of the virus increase after any stage, it is believed that the Government will revert to the previous stage's measures until it has been brought under control again.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced he will begin phasing out the Government-backed furlough scheme, which allows businesses to claim up to 80% (up to a maximum of £2,500) for workers' salaries. The tapering of the scheme will be matched to those sectors who are obliged to stay closed the longest.

**This story was updated to include information from the Daily Telegraph, which has been linked above.**

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