Businesses have welcomed news that the non-essential retail sector could reopen as soon as the 12th of April
The announcement on the fate of UK retail businesses was made by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the House of Commons, as he outlined his roadmap for England’s way out of lockdown.
The Confederation of British Industry’s director general Tony Danker said the roadmap offered “hope that the country can get back to business in the coming months”.
“The roadmap is a good starting point to the hard yards ahead and caution is rightly the watchword. Business backs the step-by-step approach to re-opening and put an end to damaging stop-start restrictions.”
This comes after all schools within England will be reopening to all pupils on the 8th of March under the Prime Minister’s roadmap out of the nationwide lockdown to be announced today, with outdoor after-school sports and activities also being allowed to restart.
The reopening of non-essential retail is the second step of the roadmap and the prime minister said it would take place at least five weeks after the first step, which will see schools reopen on the 8th of March.
The second step would be confirmed at least seven days in advance and include:
- Non-essential retail
- Indoor leisure (including gyms) individually or in household groups
- Outdoor attractions such as zoos, drive-in cinemas, and theme parks
- Libraries and community centres
- Personal care businesses
- Outdoor hospitality
- Funerals, wakes and weddings with limitations
- Domestic overnight stays and self-contained accommodation
- Non-essential international travel will still be banned
An extra step is pencilled in for the 29th of March, which would see outdoor sport and leisure facilities reopening.
The final step would take place from the 21st of June at the earliest, with remaining restrictions on social contact lifted, larger events able to go ahead and nightclubs finally reopening, according to the government’s road map.
Dr Adam Marshall, director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, added: “Absolute clarity and honesty will be needed every step of the way over the weeks ahead, so that businesses have a fighting chance to rebuild.
“The stop-start dynamic of the past year, which has so damaged businesses and communities, must come to an end.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, also welcome the roadmap, but warned: “While we are encouraged by a plan for non-essential stores to reopen, the heavy impact of the pandemic means some may never be able to.
“The cost of lost sales to non-food stores during lockdown is now over £22bn and counting. Every day that a shop remains closed increases the chances that it will never open again – costing jobs and damaging local communities.”
This comes after rapid testing for COVID-19 could enable nightclubs and theatres in the UK to reopen, the Prime Minister has suggested. Boris Johnson has said that rapid testing using lateral flow COVID-19 tests could be used by “those parts of the economy we couldn’t get open last year”.
Federation of Small Businesses national chairman Mike Cherry said: “It’s important for this plan to protect against a fourth COVID wave and accompanying lockdown, the imposition of which would be devastating for the 250,000 firms that fear closure this year.
“Small businesses are clear that recovery depends on an accelerating vaccine programme, access to an improved testing infrastructure for firms of all sizes, the safe return of schools, and the right safety measures within businesses.”
All four major business representatives called for an extension of programmes such as business rates relief and the furlough scheme.
Mr Johnson promised a summer that would be “very different and incomparably better” for businesses, many of which have struggled through a year of pandemic restrictions.