First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced that ‘non-essential’ retail in Wales can reopen from Monday 22 June.
Meanwhile First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced yesterday (Thursday 18 June) that most shops in Scotland will be able to reopen from 29 June.
These announcements come after mounting pressure for the Scottish and Welsh governments to offer retailers a specific timeline for reopening. ‘Non-essential’ shops were able to reopen this week (from 15 June) in England and from Friday 12 June in Northern Ireland.
As per the government guidelines in England and Northern Ireland, Welsh and Scottish retailers will be allowed to reopen their doors if they are able to implement measures to ensure the health and safety of their staff and customers.
However, in Wales, unlike in England, social distancing is written into law in Wales, requiring all employers to make provisions for their staff to enforce the two-metre social distancing rule.
At the daily Welsh government press conference on Thursday, health minister Vaughan Gething said he did not want to see a repeat of scenes in England when high street stores were reopened. Photographs of crowds of people standing closely together outside of stores have been shared by the media this week. He said the scenes in England were “in complete breach of what social distancing guidance is supposed to deliver. I don’t want to see workers put at risk, I don’t want to see shoppers put at risk.”
The stay local five-mile rule in Wales remains in place for now, but these travel restrictions could be lifted from 6 July so people can "travel as far as they like for all purposes," said Drakeford.
Sturgeon’s plan to reopen the economy means that shops of all sizes will be able to reopen from 29 June so long as they have outdoor entrances and exits. Shopping centres will need to remain closed except for essential retailers such as supermarkets and pharmacists.
Sturgeon has advised retailers to start putting plans in place to ensure that customers and staff are able to keep the required two metres apart.
She said: “All of us as customers have a role to play. When shops do reopen, I ask everyone to exercise patience, stick to the measures that are in place for your safety, and at all times please respect retail staff who will be asking you to shop in a different way."
This more cautious approach has received some criticism. Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw said Sturgeon’s plan lacked the ambition to deal with the pandemic. He said her Cabinet had failed to grasp the “depth of the economic crisis that we are about to go through.”
Nonetheless, these announcements will likely be welcomed by Welsh and Scottish retailers who can now work to a set date for reopening their stores.
David Lonsdale, chief executive Scottish Retail Consortium, said the announcement was a "significant milestone", offering Scottish retailers "much needed clarity on the path ahead".
In one of the angriest frontbench exchanges in Holyrood since the beginning of the lockdown, the Tory chief said the First Minister and her Cabinet had failed to grasp the “depth of the economic crisis that we are about to go through”.
He welcomed “the limited relaxations that the First Minister announced” before adding: “Indeed, I welcomed every one of them a fortnight ago when they were announced elsewhere, to much derision from her.
“We need much more ambition from the Scottish Government. Children need it so they can get back to school and continue their education, and working parents need it so that they have a chance of staying in work.”
Sturgeon said lifting the restrictions that she had announced yesterday two weeks ago “would have been utterly reckless and it would have put lives at risk”.
“That is why increasing numbers of people across Scotland are glad that Jackson Carlaw is not standing in this position,” she said.
The Welsh government has said that all shops in Wales will be able to reopen from Monday, so long as social distancing measures can be effectively implemented.