Here’s when shops could reopen in the UK as government reveals lockdown exit plan

Monday, 18th May 2020, 3:37 pm
Updated Monday, 18th May 2020, 3:37 pm
The UK entered lockdown on 23 March, with non-essential businesses temporarily closing their doors, including most retail outlets (Photo: Shutterstock)

The UK entered lockdown on 23 March, with non-essential businesses temporarily closing their doors, including most retail outlets.

The closure of shops during lockdown has had a significant impact on the retail industry, with clothing outlets Oasis and Warehouse closing permanently, resulting in the loss of 1,800 jobs.

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Debenhams also entered into administration for the second time in a year in April, forcing some of its branches to stay shut permanently.

Boris Johnson set out the government’s lockdown exit plan in a speech to the nation on Sunday (10 May), unveiling plans to begin to reopen some shops and getting the economy restarted.

So when could high street retailers open again? Here’s what you need to know.

When could shops reopen?

Shops in England may start to reopen in June according to the government’s phased plan to ease lockdown restrictions.

Boris Johnson said shops will reopen from the start of June “at the earliest”, provided that infections and the reproduction rate of the disease, known as the R value, remain low.

He said: “In step two – at the earliest by June 1 – after half term – we believe we may be in a position to begin the phased reopening of shops... we will shortly be setting out detailed guidance on how to make it work in schools and shops and on transport.”

Some cafes or restaurants with outdoor space, and places of worship and socially distanced cinemas, could return to business from July, although specific details haven’t yet been given.

However, the leaders of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are not replacing the “Stay Home” message with Johnson’s new “Stay Alert” slogan.

These current guidelines for the easing of lockdown restrictions only apply to England, including the phasing of reopenings such as shops.

A five-stage plan for easing the Covid-19 lockdown in Northern Ireland has been published by the executive, but Northern Ireland’s blueprint does not include a timetable.

However, the first step of the plan includes changes to rules on exercise and churches being able to open for private prayer.

Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, announced on Monday (18 May) that lockdown measures could begin to be lifted from 28 May. Ms Sturgeon said this would mean people could meet someone from another household, as long as social distancing is maintained.

More outdoor activities and sports such as golf and fishing will also be allowed.

In Wales, some garden centres have been allowed to reopen since May 10, and rules on how many times you can exercise have been relaxed. However, the advice is to stay local.

Schools remain shut, and people should only travel when "absolutely necessary". People should still work from home when they can and continue to social distance. There is set to be another review on 28 May.

Which shops are open at the moment?

Since the lockdown was put into place on 23 March, only shops that sell essential items have been allowed to stay open.

This included supermarkets, pharmacies, petrol stations and bicycle shops.

What needs to happen before shops reopen?

Johnson stressed that the reopening of shops is “conditional”. He said: “Because although we have a plan, it is a conditional plan.

“And since our priority is to protect the public and save lives, we cannot move forward unless we satisfy the five tests. We must protect our NHS. We must see sustained falls in the death rate.

“We must see sustained and considerable falls in the rate of infection. We must sort out our challenges in getting enough PPE to the people who need it, and yes, it is a global problem but we must fix it.

Johnson also explained that the government wanted to make sure that any measures they take “do not force the reproduction rate of the disease – the R – back up over one”.