Covid-19: Lockdown update – Non-essential retailers could reopen from June

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said non-essential retailers could reopen from 1 June if continued social distancing measures ensure Covid-19 infection rates remain low.

Johnson revealed a “first sketch of a road map for reopening society” on Sunday evening (10 May). He said the UK will remain in lockdown, but as part of the first step in a three-step plan to kick-start the economy, he said those who can’t work from home are now being encouraged to go to work, such as those working in construction and manufacturing.

Meanwhile, the public will also be allowed to exercise outdoors more than once a day from Wednesday, following in the footsteps of Wales and Scotland which made similar announcements in recent days.

Step two of the plan will see retailers start to reopen, no earlier than 1 June, as long as the scientific data confirms coronavirus cases do not begin to rise once again. Step three will impact the hospitality industry, with hopes of restaurants to begin reopening from July.

Johnson also introduced a new coronavirus alert level to rank danger posed by Covid-19. Ranging from level one (no risk) to level five (significant risk), he said England has been and is currently at stage four moving stage three. A total of 31,587 people have lost their lives to coronavirus in the UK to date.  

News reports prior to the Prime Minster's speech speculated that garden centres will be allowed to reopen this week, as long as they ensure social distancing measures are in place for shoppers. Cafes and playgrounds on any sites will have to remain closed. This is expected to be confirmed by the government tomorrow as it answers questions from the public. 

It has been seven weeks since the government put the UK into lockdown in order to contain the spread of coronavirus and protect the NHS. All non-essential stores were forced to close, while grocery stores remained open, as well as pharmacies and funeral homes.

Online retail has been a lifeline for brands who were forced to shutter, but a number of fashion retailers initially closed down their online operations, as well as their stores, as they grappled with the safety of staff in fulfilment centres. Most have since reopened their online operations, but the fashion sector in particular has been hit hard by Covid-19, with a 23.1% year-on-year decline in online sales for the month of March, according to IMRG.

The sector, along with other non-essential retailers, will welcome the news that they can soon reopen, but it is yet to be seen how quickly the public will go back to shopping on the high street.