There’s still plenty of lockdown restrictions to be eased, but the UK is making tentative steps back toward normality. Well, as normal as anything in our new reality. Next Monday (June 1) marks the beginning of Phase Two in the English government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy, which will see outdoor markets and car showrooms reopen as soon as they can meet new secure guidelines.
Described in the Downing Street's government's contingency plan as a phase focused on “smarter controls”, Phase Two “will gradually replace the existing social restrictions with smarter measures that balance its aim as effectively as possible,” while simultaneously tracking the progress of the virus and “reimposing restrictions if required.”
“The high street sits at the heart of every community in the country,” Business Secretary Alok Sharma said in a statement. “Enabling these businesses to open will be a critical step on the road to rebuilding our economy, and will support millions of jobs across the UK.”
Which Non-Essential Businesses Are Reopening?
Initially published on May 11, the English government has updated its guidance for people “who work in or run shops, branches, stores or similar environments,” which will be allowed to reopen from June 15. These include the likes of clothes and charity shops, auction houses, antique stores, gift shops, mobile phone stores, betting shops, and other similar types of retail.
Hairdressers, cafes, restaurants, and other similar businesses are not included due to “the risk of transmission in these environments [being] higher where long periods of person-to-person contact is required,” as the Guardian notes.
What Guidance Has The English Government Given Non-Essential Retailers?
Before opening, businesses must complete a risk assessment “in consultation with trade union representatives or workers”, and take the “necessary steps to become COVID-19 secure in line with the current Health and Safety legislation. Once opened, these retailers will also be susceptible to spot checks as well as follow ups on concerns made by members of the public.
The updated guidance builds upon what was previously given to retailers (like supermarkets and chemists) that have remained open during the pandemic, utilising months of experience in distancing and protective measures that were put in place at the outset. New measures include “storing returned items for 72 hours before putting them back on the shop floor, placing protective coverings on large items touched by the public such as beds or sofas, and frequent cleaning of objects and surfaces that are touched regularly.”
Will Social Distancing Measures Be Eased During Phase 2?
No, not yet. At the moment, you can meet one person outside your household in a public outdoor space while maintaining a two meter distance. But social distancing measures remain in place — especially when it comes to returning to non-essential retailers.
As for social gatherings, there’s a chance they may be eased soon. “You can see members of your family or friends out of doors, and we are looking at seeing how we can make it easier to see, in particular, more family members out of doors in a safe way,” Michael Gove said on Radio 4’s Today programme. This would be before “pubs, restaurants, cafes and bars would return to normal,” as the Guardian writes.
Are Scotland, Northern Ireland, & Wales Following This Guidance Too?
The Scottish government has also released a four phase plan in the easement of restrictions, including a rough estimate on when non-essential shops could reopen. This seems as though it’ll take place during the third phase, which includes the reopening of hairdressers and schools as well as large retail outlets.
In Wales, garden centres are now open but there’s no word on non-essential retailers reopening just yet. The country has implemented a red, amber and green traffic light system as opposed to phases, and is currently still in the “lockdown” zone. But as Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford said recently, the country is moving “carefully and cautiously” forward, per Wales Online. For non-essential shops to reopen, the country will need to be in the “amber” phase.
For Northern Ireland, there’s no certain date in places as there is in England, but it looks as though “retail stores are likely to be given the okay to reopen within the next week,” according to the Belfast Telegraph. Northern Ireland has a five step recovery plan ready and waiting to be implemented, but has yet to do so.