Communities Secretary, Robert Jenrick, has announced that shops will be able to stay open from Monday to Saturday until 10 pm when lockdown restrictions end on April 12, in the hope that this will help boost the high street and overall economic recovery.
The changes are similar to those put in place over Christmas and are also meant to help people avoid peak shopping times, whilst also reducing congestion on public transport as people head for the high street.
The extended opening hours are scheduled to last until June 21, when lockdown is due to end – although there could be an extension after that time if the measures prove to be beneficial.
Mr Jenrick said that the measures were justified because of the need to provide a “safe retail environment…This is part of a package of support to help reopen our shops and high-streets safely – backed by £56 million”.
So-called non-essential retailers have been hard-hit by lockdown measures which saw them miss out on the bulk of Christmas, Valentine’s, Mother’s Day and now Easter trading while supermarkets, garden centres and DIY stores boomed.
The last minute announcement has come too late for shops including Thorntons, which announced that it is shutting up its high street shops for good in the wake of ongoing lockdowns.
The Government is also allowing flexible working hours on construction sites, whilst pubs and restaurants will be able to set up marquees to help them open up again safely. Councils are being asked to support ongoing social-distancing measures, but also – controversially – to relax planning rules wherever possible. Let’s hope that does not result in wanton building over greenbelt land.