// Non-essential retailers in England can reopen on April 12, government confirms
// It forms part of “step two” in the lockdown exit roadmap, which also features the reopening of hairdressers & nail salons
// Scotland will reveal its own roadmap later today, while Wales and Northern Ireland extended their lockdowns last week
Non-essential retailers in England can exit lockdown and reopen from April 12 at the earliest, the government has confirmed.
The shop reopenings come as part of “step two” in the government’s lockdown exit roadmap, which will also see the opening up of all indoor leisure centres and gyms, outdoor hospitality, and personal care services such as hairdressers and nail salons.
“This step will reopen some sections of our indoor economy and more outdoor settings, restoring jobs and livelihoods and enabling people to access some of the activities and services which are most important to them”, the government said yesterday.
- Wales lockdown to remain for at least another 3 weeks
- Northern Ireland lockdown extended to April
- Government urged to provide clarity on plans to exit lockdown
Step three will come into effect on May 17, and will see restaurants, pubs and hotels being able to reopen indoors in line with the “rule of six” policy.
The rule of six rule would then be relaxed by June 21 at the earliest, and all large gatherings – including nightclubs – would be allowed to go ahead.
The government added it would update its Covid-secure guidance to advise businesses on improving fresh air flow indoors and carrying out regular testing.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said spring and summer in England would usher in changes to make lives “incomparably better” as the country heads towards fully easing the lockdown by June 21.
The PM defended his “cautious but also irreversible” approach to relaxing restrictions with a four-step plan yesterday, arguing he would not be “buccaneering” with people’s lives.
However, despite billing his plans as a “one-way road to freedom”, he admitted he could not guarantee the vaccination programme would prevent restrictions from ever returning.
Meanwhile, Chancellor Rishi Sunak is under pressure to extend measures such as the furlough scheme, which is due to expire at the end of April, when he delivers his Budget on March 3.
Johnson indicated that the continued restrictions on some businesses would lead to an extension in taxpayer-funded support schemes.
“We will not pull the rug out,” he said.
The BRC cautiously welcomed the Prime Minister’s roadmap plan for England.
“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,” BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said.
“The cost of lost sales to non-food stores during lockdown is now over £22 billion and counting.
“Every day that a shop remains closed increases the chances that it will never open again – costing jobs and damaging local communities.
“Non-essential shops are ready to reopen and have been investing hundreds of millions on making themselves Covid-secure.
“Government should remain flexible and allow non-essential retail to reopen as soon as the data suggests it is safe to do so. Until it is permitted, retailers will need continued support from government.
“We welcome the PM’s call ‘not to pull the rug out’ from under businesses. To this end, the Government must act on three vital issues – rents, rates and grants.
“To avoid further job losses and permanent job closures, the Chancellor must announce a targeted business rates relief from April and extend the moratorium on debt enforcement, as well as removing state aid caps on Covid business grants.
“This would relieve struggling businesses of bills they cannot currently pay and allow them to trade their way to recovery.”
Johnson’s tentative schedule for easing restrictions in England will be followed this afternoon by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon detailing her own plan for easing Scotland’s lockdown.
Northern Ireland has already confirmed it would extend its own lockdown until April 1, although non-essential retailers can resume click-and-collect services from March 8.
The country’s Stormont Executive also said it would publish a road map out of lockdown on March 1.
Wales’ lockdown rules were also extended last week, and will remain in place for at least another three weeks.
Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford confirmed that there would be no further significant changes to the country’s lockdown as stay-at-home rules were extended.
The current lockdowns in Northern Ireland, Wales and England are the third of its kind on a national scale since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago.
with PA Wires