Stores reopen in England, crucial stage of deconfinement

All businesses are authorized to reopen in England on Monday in a new phase of deconfinement in the United Kingdom, crucial for the economy of the country hard hit by the pandemic of new coronavirus.

Only stores deemed “essential” such as food stores and pharmacies remained open during confinement, decreed in late March to fight the pandemic.

In total, nearly 42,000 people who tested positive for the virus died in the country, a figure that exceeds 50,000 people if one includes the deaths for which the virus is the suspected cause.

Seeing a decrease in the number of deaths and hospitalizations, the government began to loosen restrictions in England, and authorized in early June the partial reopening of schools, outdoor markets and car dealerships.

Monday, it will be the thousands of “non essential” businesses, selling clothes, books or electronic products, which can reopen as well as zoos, safari parks, drive-in cinemas and places of worship, but only for individual prayers. .

The wearing of masks becomes compulsory in transport but not in stores. However, businesses had to put in place measures to ensure the safety of employees and customers, such as frequent cleaning of the premises and markings on the ground to encourage people to keep their distance.

People can “shop with confidence,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson told reporters on a Sunday visit to an East London shopping center where he observed the measures in place.

This reopening of stores is important to the UK economy, which has been hit hard by the economic impact of the pandemic. The country’s GDP collapsed by 20.4% in April, the first full month of containment.

Non-essential retail businesses employ 1.3 million people and contribute £ 46.6 billion to the economy each year.

Their reopening only concerns England, the three other nations of the country, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, having adopted a different decontainment schedule.

Wide sidewalks

If the guidelines for social distance – two meters between each person – remain in place, the government is studying the possibility of reducing this distance to give a boost to pubs, hotels and restaurants, which are scheduled to open in early July.

Noting that the contamination figures are falling, Boris Johnson said on Sunday that this gave “more room for maneuver” to relax the rules.

In the meantime, in the shopping streets of central London, some sidewalks have been widened, and dispensers of hydroalcoholic gel installed for customers.

Tourists, many of whom shop at Oxford Street or Regent Street before the pandemic, may take time to return. Since June 8, all travelers arriving in the UK, with a few exceptions, are forced to observe a 14-day quarantine, a measure criticized by the tourism and aviation industries.

“I think it will take a while before we get back to normal, we are really looking forward to welcoming our international visitors, probably in a few months or next year, but our priority now is that our local customers, Londoners are back, “Jace Tyrell, boss of the New West End company, which brings together 600 traders, restaurateurs, hoteliers and property owners in central London, told AFP.

If businesses reopen in England, schools remain closed for the majority of students until September. The government has abandoned plans to allow all schoolchildren to return to school before the summer recess, a move that has garnered a round of criticism.

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