Britain’s embattled high streets can spring back to life from Monday as the Government tonight gave the final go-ahead for shops to reopen.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma confirmed that all non-essential retailers will be allowed to lift their shutters on June 15 as expected.
The move will provide a lifeline for businesses and workers who have taken a battering from the effects of coronavirus.
And it will also provide a relief for weary consumers who have been stuck at home for months.
Making the announcement at tonight’s Downing Street press conference Mr Sharma said: ‘This is the latest step in the careful restarting of our economy and will enable high streets up and down the country to spring back to life.’
But he dashed the hopes of thirsty pub-goers hoping that their favourite boozer might re-open ahead of schedule, saying they are still on course to open in July at the earliest.
‘Of course, there are businesses which still remain closed. As soon as we can we will publish further safer working guidance for restaurants, pubs and bars, as well as hairdressers, barbers, nail bars and related services,’ he added.
‘I know there’s been a lot of speculation about when we might be able to reopen these parts of the economy and I completely understand why we’re all so keen to get them back up and running, and I absolutely share that enthusiasm.
‘But we continue to follow the road map which set out our ambition to reopen these sectors from July 4 at the earliest.’
Business Secretary Alok Sharma confirmed that all non-essential retailers will be allowed to lift their shutters on June 15 as expected
All the businesses that reopen will have to have strict social distancing measures in place if they are to open.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave the initial go-head for the retail restart last month.
But it was always subject to the coronavirus infection rate continuing to decline.
Which shops are opening – and which others will stay shut?
- Garden centres
- Takeaway/delivery food outlets
Opened on June 1
- Outdoor markets
- Car showrooms
Open on June 15
- Indoor markets
- Clothing and shoe shops
- Toy stores
- Furniture shops
- Electronics stores
- Photography studios
- Auction houses
Staying shut for now
- Restaurants, bars and pubs
- Cafes and canteens
- Holiday accommodation – hotels, hostels, B&Bs, holiday rentals, campsites and boarding houses
- Hairdressers, barbers, beauty and nail salons
- Playgrounds, outdoor gyms and outdoor swimming pools
- Piercing and tattoo parlours
- Caravan parks (commercial)
- Community centres
- Places of worship
- Museums and galleries
- Cinemas, theatres and concert halls
- Bingo halls, casinos and betting shops
- Spas and massage parlours
- Skating rinks
- Indoor fitness studios, gyms, swimming pools or other indoor leisure centres
- Indoor arcades, bowling alleys, soft play centres and similar facilities
Today’s confirmation comes despite fears that the R rate of infection is still high.
The Government insists it is below 1 in all regions of the UK, despite the only published local breakdown showing it is above 1 in the North West and South West of England.
A Downing Street spokesman said before the announcement that there was ‘no update’ from chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty on the alert level, which remains at four out of five.
Britain’s coronavirus death toll today jumped by 145, with Northern Ireland having now gone three days in-a-row without recording a single fatality as the outbreak continues to fade.
It means the official number of Covid-19 fatalities now stands at 40,742. But separate grim statistics released today suggested the disease has already claimed at least 51,000 lives in the UK. Other data shows nearly 64,000 ‘excess deaths’ have already been recorded in the UK since the outbreak spiralled out of control in March.
Essential retailers like supermarkets and pharmacies have not closed their doors at all, while car showrooms and outdoor markets were cleared to reopen on June 1.
This latest step sees non-essential, non-hospitality businesses allowed to reopen.
It came as economists warned MPs that UK unemployment could take the best part of a decade to return to pre-coronavirus levels despite the Government pumping billions of pounds into job retention schemes.
Leading economists told the Treasury Committee they predict ‘really high unemployment for the foreseeable future’ as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
This is despite programmes like the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (JRS), which has pumped billions of pounds into trying to prevent widespread laying off of staff.
Torsten Bell, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation, told ministers at the Government’s Treasury Committee that households should prepare for a ‘big labour market shock’.
He said there had been ‘way too much’ talk of a ‘v-shaped recovery’ – where GDP returns to previous levels relatively quickly.
And he warned that if unemployment was to hit 10 per cent, it could take the UK seven years to recover back to pre-pandemic levels of around 4 per cent.
He said: ‘I think we will see some spark back in activity as we leave the hard lockdown. But in terms of employment growth, the reasons to be nervous are that the sectors which are generally the quickest to bring people back to work are hospitality and retail.
‘They were a big part of bringing people back into work in the financial crisis but that won’t be so easy this time.
‘We expect really high unemployment for the foreseeable future.
‘Next year we will be dealing with unemployment when we thought we would be dealing with record employment and we will debating tax rises over the first half of this decade.’
Torsten Bell, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation, told ministers at the Government’s Treasury Committee that households should prepare for a ‘big labour market shock’
Almost half the British public would support relaxing Sunday trading laws for a year to aid the high street
Meanwhile Pub landlords say they need to know within the next 24 hours if they can reopen this month, in order to prepare properly.
Brewers need at least three weeks to deliver draught beer, and industry leaders say they need that long to train staff on how to maintain proper social distancing rules.
Mr Johnson was reported to have earmarked June 22 as the date when pubs and restaurants across the nation could be allowed to reopen.
But premises opening on that date would only be able to offer a smaller range of draught ales while breweries increase production, The Sun reported.