Retail stores to reopen in April, ‘economy will bounce back’ says PM

PM: “Our towns and cities will be full of buzz and life and excitement again”

Retail stores will be allowed to reopen no earlier than 12 April.

This was announced yesterday (Monday) as part of the Prime Minister’s “road map” plan to end COVID-19 restrictions.

A new four-step plan to ease England’s lockdown could see all legal limits on social contact lifted by 21 June.

Part of this includes the reopening of all shops on 12 April. Other targets include allowing two households to mix indoors from mid-May.

However, each stage of this road map will be a minimum of five weeks apart and it requires four conditions to be met at each stage. 1 – the Coronavirus vaccine programme continues to go to plan; 2 – this is sufficiently reducing the number of COVID-related deaths; 3 – infection rates are under control and coming down; 4 – lifting restrictions does not cause a risk of new virus variants.

Plans to ease restrictions in other parts of the UK will be outlined in the coming days.

Boris Johnson described his plan as a “one-way road to freedom” aimed to be “cautious but irreversible”. “At every stage, decisions will be led by data, not dates,” he said yesterday.

Speaking at a Downing Street news conference, Mr Johnson said: “We cannot persist indefinitely with restrictions that have separated families and loved and threatened the livelihoods of millions.

“The coming Spring and Summer would be seasons of hope, looking and feeling incomparably better for us all.”

When questioned at the conference about the long-term effects of lockdown on the UK’s town and city centres and what it means for businesses that thrive on high street footfall, Mr Johnson said there will be changes as a result of the pandemic – “it may even accelerate some trends in city centres, which have been changing for a long time anyway”.

But he added: “I’m a sceptic, when people say this will lead to a massive change in urban life, I’m doubtful. I don’t believe this is going to mean a fundamental change to the way our big cities really work. I think [they] will be full of buzz and life and excitement again, provided people have confidence about coming back.

“It’s all going to be about confidence – that will come from the continuing success of the vaccination programme and people’s sense that the disease is finally being controlled.”

Mr Johnson continued: “Our great cities will bounce back along with the rest of the economy once we’ve got this roadmap delivered.”

Reacting to the PM’s route out of lockdown plan, Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, commented: “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.

“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 them to reopen as soon as the data suggests it is safe to do so.”