Non essential shops reopening: Is it safe for people to go?

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Non essential shops reopening: Is it safe for people to go?

Huge queues have been reported across England today as non-essential retailers have been allowed to reopen.

Major retailers in city centres have seen particularly large crowds, with clothes shops such as Primark and TK Maxx appearing to be very popular as queues of hundreds had formed outside for opening time.

While no shop is going to turn their noses up at long queues outside the door there are concerns that the overall number of customers will not be enough to justify the costs of reopening.

Two metres of social distancing still needs to be maintained in and out of shops, meaning businesses are regulating the number of customers to protect from the risk of the coronavirus being spread around.

The government is eager to have people go out and shop as it will boost the economy at a time when significant damage has been done, but there is a balance between protecting the public from Covid-19 and protecting the economy from lockdown.

Should people be going back out to the shops yet or is it too dangerous to be out and about while the coronavirus is still around?

The Claim

Prime minister Boris Johnson has urged the public to “shop with confidence” from now on, his government wants people back out on the high street and spending money in order to keep businesses and jobs going as the lockdown is lifted.

The prime minister said a lot of work had gone into making shops much safer during the pandemic, with spaces rearranged and limits on customers so that social distancing can still be observed.

Johnson insisted “the most important thing is public safety and the health of our country” but said he was “very optimistic” that they could go out and buy non-essential goods without it threatening public safety.

The government is also looking at relaxing the distance part of social distancing, meaning more people could be in the shops spending money at any one time. The two metre minimum could be reduced to 1.5 metres or cut in half to provide a greater economic boost.

A number of businesses have warned that they will struggle to reopen successfully unless social distancing is relaxed

If it really is safe to go back to the shops as the government says then it would be a huge boost for retail and all the people working in it. For now it seems like plenty of people are ready to go out and do some shopping.

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The Counter Claim

However, The Times reports there are still strong public concerns over things going back to normal. It’s easy to count the people who queued up today and much harder to know how many are still staying away.

Plenty of people feel confident enough to go back to the shops but there are still many who think it’s too risky to be going out. Shops might be busy today but they will need to do consistent business over an extended period of time in order to have a stable recovery.

Some of the strongest concerns come with the ability to maintain social distancing when there are so many other members of the public also out shopping.

Retailers will welcome the chance to reopen and make money again but if there’s not enough customers over the next few weeks and months while the lockdown is still in place then they could struggle to recover.

The coronavirus is still active across England, with the R rate dangerously close to 1 and potentially above it in some parts of the country. That means there is a danger that people with the virus might start spreading it to others at a higher rate.

There are fears that the UK is racing out of lockdown too quickly and that could lead to a second spike in cases. The UK has the highest coronavirus death toll in Europe and the highest death rate in the world.

The more the lockdown is lifted the greater the risk that the coronavirus will be spread at a higher rate again. Safety measures are in place but the extent to which they will protect people is unclear for now.

The Facts

The UK economy shrank by 20.4 per cent in April and is expected to shrink by eight per cent overall in 2020

A massive drop caused by the lockdown is expected to mostly be recovered once the country returns to normal but there is some serious long term damage predicted and we may not get the economy to pre-coronavirus levels until 2023. 

The sooner things can go back to normal the stronger the bounce back will be, reopening shops is a part of encouraging that bounce back which is hoped to protect businesses from collapsing and jobs being lost. 

Many thousands of jobs have already been lost and many more are expected to go once the furlough scheme is ended. 

YouGov polling reports that 41 per cent of the public think now is the right time to be reopening non-essential shops, while 39 per cent think it’s too soon for stores to be throwing open their doors. 

Clothing shops are the high street outlet Brits are most confident about returning to, but only four in 10 said they were confident about going back. 

Fewer than half of those polled said they were sure they could maintain social distancing while out shopping. Just nine per cent of people said they thought they’d be able to completely follow the social distancing rules if they went shopping.

Almost three quarters of the public said they would be comfortable with wearing a face mask if it was a condition of being allowed back into the shops, though only 21 per cent of Brits are wearing masks when they leave the house.

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