Monday, 11 May 2020

UK stores could reopen from June 1, but plan is short on detail

UK ‘non-essential’ shops might start to open from June 1, Boris Johnson said in a special ministerial address on Sunday evening. But the address was very short on detail and also came with plenty of caveats around infection rates that could mean lockdown easing could be slower, or possibly even faster than expected.

And there’s also a row brewing. The heads of the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland seem to disagree with the new ‘Stay Alert’ slogan that replaces ‘Stay Home’ and is also saying they weren’t properly consulted about the government’s plans.

That aside, the UK government seems to be planning for a phased reopening of shops, although unlike the Irish government several days earlier, it didn’t give a series of specific dates for when certain types of shops would be able to open. Some observers have suggested that there had originally been an intention to flesh out the detail much more, although it's unclear exactly why such detail would have been removed.

Two things seem to be certain and that’s the need for a “sustained and consistent” drop in the daily death rate, and the overall rate of infection dropping to “manageable levels” before the government feels confident enough to radically ease the lockdown measures.

The Prime Minister also talked about avoiding a second coronavirus peak and ensuring PPE supply (something that has been boosted by UK fashion firms turning their production over to PPE manufacture) is adequate.

There’s a little confused too over the PM saying that lockdown restrictions aren’t actually being lifted but that the guidance is changing. That means some subtle distinctions being made. For instance, the lockdown originally came with and instructions to work from home but permission to continue to go into work if people couldn't work from home. But Britons are now being "actively encouraged" to go to work, as long as social distancing is adequate. However, given that they’re being advised to avoid public transport, traveling to work could be hard for many.

They're also being encouraged to take as much daily exercise outside as they want to and they'll be able to sit in the sun in the local park, again, as long as social distancing rules are obeyed. This could, of course, have a small positive impact on demand for outdoor clothing and accessories.

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