// Non-essential retail in England & Wales comes out of lockdown today, with queues forming outside shops
// Footfall this morning was up 218.2% compared to last week, but down 14.7 compared to 2019 (pre-Covid)
// Other high street businesses such as hairdressers, gyms and outdoor hospitality also reopened in England today
England’s shops, hairdressers, pub beer gardens and pavement cafes reopened today as the lockdown on non-essential retail and other other high street businesses eased.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged the nation to “behave responsibly” as life took another step back towards normality, with indoor gyms, swimming pools, alfresco dining, nail salons and zoos also welcoming customers.
Wales was also enjoy renewed freedoms from Monday, with non-essential retail reopened and border restrictions eased to permit travel again with the rest of the UK and Ireland.
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Scotland’s non-essential retail is slated to reopen April 26, while Stormont is expected to announce a reopenong date for Northern Ireland later this week.
April snow showers made outdoor hospitality a chilly prospect in parts of southern England but the wintry conditions appeared to do little to dampen enthusiasm as customers queued outside shops – namely Primark, TK Maxx or JD Sports – and waited for hairdressers to reopen after months without a trim.
According to preliminary data from Springboard, as of 10am on Monday morning footfall across all UK retail destinations was so far up by 218.2 per cent compared to last week.
On a year-on-year basis, it was up 505.1 per cent – although it’s important to highlight that this time last year the UK was in the middle of its first full nationwide lockdown.
Compared to 2019 figures though, or pre-Covid, footfall this morning across all UK retail destinations was down by 14.7 per cent.
On a week-on-week basis, footfall saw rises of 339.7 per cent in shopping centres, 232.8 per cent in high streets and 58.2 per cent on retail parks.
Despite the relaxation in lockdown rules, social mixing indoors will remain heavily restricted, with around two in five adults yet to receive their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and the vast majority yet to get both.
The PM urged caution during the “major step forward” as a scientist advising the UK Government warned the rules must be followed to minimise a possible rebound in case numbers.
The need for continued vigilance was underlined by former government chief scientific adviser Sir David King, who highlighted a surge in cases in Chile despite a successful vaccination campaign.
“From the point of view of the population itself, we’re all dying to get out of lockdown,” he told Sky News.
“From the point of view of the epidemic, I think it’s all a little bit more worrying.”
He added: “Chile is a country where the rate of vaccination amongst the population was third highest in the world – they were ahead of us in terms of the number of people who have had the vaccine – and they’re suddenly now into a third wave.”
Modelling by government advisers in the UK has suggested that Monday’s relaxation will not result in a surge of cases that would put pressure on the NHS, but it is “highly likely” that there would be a further resurgence in hospital admissions and deaths after subsequent steps along the road map out of lockdown.
The next significant date is May 17, when socialising indoors will be permitted under the “rule of six” – if the PM judges that the vaccination programme is safely breaking the link between infections and deaths.
with PA Wires