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Relaxing 2m rule in-store ‘compromises safety’

social distancingRelaxing the 2m social distancing guidelines in stores would be an ‘unnecessary burden on business, compromise the safety of staff and customers, and create confusion,’ according to shop workers union USDAW.

The UK Government announced on Tuesday a relaxation of the 2m rule in England from 4 July, the same date when other high street businesses like pubs, restaurants and hairdressers will be able to re-open, provided they have coronavirus measures in place.

Non-essential retail re-opened its doors in England last Monday, while Northern Ireland reopened on 12 June, Wales re-opened this week and Scotland will re-open next week. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told MPs that the 2m rule ‘effectively makes life impossible for large parts of the economy. Where it is possible to keep 2m apart people should but where it is not, we will advise people to keep a social distance of 1m plus. They should remain 1m apart while taking mitigations to reduce risk of spread of the disease.’

The British Retail Consortium welcomed the relaxation, saying it followed World Health Organisation safety guidance, but USDAW says it would tell shoppers that social distancing was at an end.

‘Retailers have worked hard to effectively implement social distancing measures during the pandemic and the safety of staff and customers will continue to be their main priority,’ says Helen Dickinson, BRC chief executive.

‘The reduction will support shops, which have faced limits to footfall – and therefore spending – as a result of the distancing measures. The reopening of restaurants, bars and other services will also help encourage people back to our high streets. ‘This is vital to reviving our town centres and we hope the public plays their part in supporting our local high streets. Every purchase we make is a shop helped and a job supported.’

‘Reducing the 2m rule in stores could be disastrous for our members and send a message to the public that social distancing is over,’ says Paddy Lillis, USDAW general secretary. ‘It has taken a lot of hard work and effort to make the changes to encourage customers to follow 2m distancing in shops that stayed open throughout the lockdown.

‘Non-essential retailers have also redesigned their stores on the basis of 2m social distancing for their reopening. Changing the rules would be an unnecessary burden on business, compromise the safety of staff and customers, and create confusion.’