Mixed response to relaxing the two-metre social distancing rule

The BRC says the reduction will support shops, who will be able to allow more people in-store, but Usdaw says that the amendment could compromise the safety of staff and customers and create confusion

Written by Georgie Dobie

Posted 24.06.2020 | Retail

Mixed response to relaxing the two-metre social distancing rule thumbnail

Following the prime minister’s announcement in Parliament that social distancing limits will be reduced to one metre plus from 4 July, (https://tnp.media/news/retail/pm-announces-easing-of-lockdown-restrictions/), both the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw have issued an official statement; the two bodies are not

In his address to Parliament, prime minister Boris Johnson said the two-metre rule “effectively makes life impossible for large parts of the economy”. 

He announced the revision to the guidelines around social distancing saying: ”Where it is possible to keep two metres apart people should but where it is not, we will advise people to keep a social distance of one metre plus,” he said. 

“They should remain one metre apart while taking mitigations to reduce risk of spread of the disease.” 

The relaxation of this protective measure was received well by the BRC. Helen Dickinson OBE, the BRC’s chief executive, said: “We welcome the Prime Minister's announcement that the social distancing limit will be reduced to one metre from 4 July. This brings the UK in line with the WHO safety guidance. 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. 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.” 

Meanwhile, Usdaw is urging retailers to maintain social distancing in shops at two metres, as agreed in joint safety guidance.  

Paddy Lillis – Usdaw general secretary, says: “Usdaw worked with the British Retail Consortium on joint safety guidance for shops based on the two-metre rule and in our experience retailers have taken that seriously and are complying. 

“It has taken a lot of hard work and effort to make the changes to encourage customers to follow social distancing of two metres in shops that stayed open throughout the lockdown. Non-essential retailers have also redesigned their stores on the basis of two-metre social distancing for their reopening. So, we urge retailers to maintain their existing safety measures. Retail is working well under the two-metre rule, it is not necessary to reduce to one metre, which could compromise the safety of staff and customers and create confusion. 

“Safety in stores also needs customer co-operation and I am shocked that abuse of shopworkers has doubled during the Coronavirus emergency. It is a disgrace that a minority behave this way, at a time when we should be pulling together to get through this appalling pandemic and we urge customers to observe social distancing. At no time should abuse be a part of the job. Shopworkers deserve respect.” 

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