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Coronavirus England: IKEA opens to THREE-HOUR queues

Ikea stores across Britain are seeing giant queues form outside today with customers forming three-hour queues as lockdown restrictions are eased.

The car park at Ikea in Wembley, north London, which was until recently a coronavirus test centre, was full of customer cars this morning as the store opened for business for the first time since the lockdown was imposed. 

Aerial photos show hundreds of customers queuing around the block in the stifling heat to get into the shops in Nottingham, Reading and Essex today as the Government urged the country to act ‘sensibly’ amid restrictions being eased.  

Massive lines of people could also be seen snaking around the car parks at the Swedish furniture giant’s branches in Wednesbury, West Midlands.

Some eager shoppers had been queuing from as early as 5.30am – over four hours before the store was due to open at 10am today.

Huge traffic jams were also reported in and around the areas as people flocked to their local branch following Boris Johnson’s further easing of lockdown restrictions. 

Ikea is one of several businesses to reopen today, as millions of Britons are able to see friends and family – amid warnings the restrictions are being lifted too soon.   

Queues were also seen at British Pret a Manger shops today as the country begins to return to some semblance or normality following months of lockdown. 

Outdoor markets and car showrooms will also be reopening this morning, while Primark, Sports Direct and House of Fraser are preparing to open again later this month. 

It comes as the president of the Association of Directors of Public Health said today that their experts are concerned ministers are lifting the coronavirus lockdown too quickly, saying the Government’s own five tests have not been met.

Warrington: Customers socially distance themselves as the queue to enter Ikea Warrington. The store opening saw large queues of people and traffic on adjacent roads as it reopened

An IKEA store in Neasden, north London, on April 1, while its car park was being used as an NHS workers' coronavirus testing centre
The car park today,  full of customers' cars as the store opens for business for the first time since the lockdown was imposed in the UK

Wembley: Pictured left is an IKEA store in on April 1, while its car park was being used as an NHS workers’ coronavirus testing centre. Right: The car park today, full of customers’ cars as the store opens for business for the first time since the lockdown was imposed in the UK

Essex: People queuing today at the Ikea store in Lakeside, Thurrock, which has reopened as part of a wider easing of lockdown restrictions in England

Essex: People queuing today at the Ikea store in Lakeside, Thurrock, which has reopened as part of a wider easing of lockdown restrictions in England

Nottingham: Huge queues form at Ikea, Nottingham, today. Customers have now been asked to shop alone, use hand sanitisers dotted around the store and be prepared with ready-made lists and their own bags

Nottingham: Huge queues form at Ikea, Nottingham, today. Customers have now been asked to shop alone, use hand sanitisers dotted around the store and be prepared with ready-made lists and their own bags

Essex: IKEA customer attempts giant puzzle of trying to slot flat-pack furniture into his car as the Lakeside store reoepned in Thurrock today

Essex: IKEA customer attempts giant puzzle of trying to slot flat-pack furniture into his car as the Lakeside store reoepned in Thurrock today

Warrington: Customers socially distance themselves as the queue to enter Ikea Warrington. The store opening saw large queues of people and traffic on adjacent roads as it reopened

Warrington: Customers socially distance themselves as the queue to enter Ikea Warrington. The store opening saw large queues of people and traffic on adjacent roads as it reopened

The latest figures show that the number of deaths for patients with coronavirus is nearing 40,000. Boris Johnson said the lockdown, which began on March 23, would not be eased until the Government is sure that it would not cause a second spike in Covid-19 cases and risk overwhelming the NHS

Customers socially distance themselves as they queue to enter Ikea in Warrington on the day that some lockdown restrictions in England were lifted

Customers socially distance themselves as they queue to enter Ikea in Warrington on the day that some lockdown restrictions in England were lifted

Customers are seen queuing at the re-opened IKEA At Lakeside in Essex. The Swedish stores had closed their doors to customers amid the pandemic

Customers are seen queuing at the re-opened IKEA At Lakeside in Essex. The Swedish stores had closed their doors to customers amid the pandemic

Huge traffic jams were also reported in and around the areas as people flocked to their local branch of the Swedish store

Huge traffic jams were also reported in and around the areas as people flocked to their local branch of the Swedish store

Customers shop at Pret a Manger in New Cavendish Street, London, as businesses across the country reopen their doors

Customers shop at Pret a Manger in New Cavendish Street, London, as businesses across the country reopen their doors

Which Ikea stores are reopening today?

Ikea is reopening stores in the following locations: 

  • Belfast 
  • Birmingham 
  • Bristol 
  • Croydon 
  • Exeter 
  • Gateshead 
  • Greenwich 
  • Lakeside 
  • Leeds 
  • Manchester 
  • Milton Keynes 
  • Norwich 
  • Nottingham 
  • Reading 
  • Sheffield 
  • Southampton 
  • Tottenham 
  • Warrington 
  • Wembley 

The latest figures show that the number of deaths for patients with coronavirus is nearing 40,000.

Boris Johnson said the lockdown, which began on March 23, would not be eased until the Government is sure that it would not cause a second spike in Covid-19 cases and risk overwhelming the NHS .

Dr Jeanelle de Gruchy told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘The five tests haven’t yet been met.

‘In terms of the R (rate of infection), it’s 0.7 to 0.9 in the latest Government assessment. It is below one but it’s a very limited room for manoeuvre isn’t it and we know how quickly this virus can spread and it’s difficult to predict then with quite a lot of the measures being eased at once what the impact that will have on the R value.

‘We’re also concerned about meeting all the other operational challenges ready to meet a potential rise in infections.’

She said the national testing programme and the test and trace scheme must be ‘robust and ready’, and that personal protective equipment (PPE) supply must be adequate.

‘We’re not feeling just yet that we’re confident enough to meet any potential challenge if the Government goes too quickly on easing lockdown measures,’ she added.

It comes as: 

  • A number of schoolchildren are turned away because teachers ‘aren’t ready for them’ and others haven’t opened at all despite up to two million heading back to classes in England today
  • 2.4 million patients are caught in coronavirus cancer backlog amid fears some tumours could become inoperable as screening checks, hospital appointments and vital treatments are missed during lockdown
  • Health experts warn there is ‘no rationale’ in letting two million people who were ‘shielding’ from Covid go back outside and say move is just a PR exercise
  • Three mothers have threatened to sue the Government claiming closing schools during coronavirus crisis may have breached their children’s human rights
IKEA in Belfast opens its door for the first time since the lockdown began, with hundreds of shoppers queuing to get in

IKEA in Belfast opens its door for the first time since the lockdown began, with hundreds of shoppers queuing to get in

Hundreds of people wait in a queue that snakes around the car park at the IKEA store in Southampton, Hampshire

Hundreds of people wait in a queue that snakes around the car park at the IKEA store in Southampton, Hampshire

Tottenham: Customers inside the IKEA Tottenham store in Edmonton, north London, as it reopens to the public following the introduction of measures to bring England out of lockdown

Tottenham: Customers inside the IKEA Tottenham store in Edmonton, north London, as it reopens to the public following the introduction of measures to bring England out of lockdown

Tottenham: Ikea staff cleaning a display inside the IKEA Tottenham store in Edmonton, north London, as it reopens to the public following the introduction of measures to bring England out of lockdown

Tottenham: Ikea staff cleaning a display inside the IKEA Tottenham store in Edmonton, north London, as it reopens to the public following the introduction of measures to bring England out of lockdown

A sign informing customers that trolleys left outside are not sanitised at the Ikea store in Exeter today, which also saw large queues

A sign informing customers that trolleys left outside are not sanitised at the Ikea store in Exeter today, which also saw large queues

Thousands of customers queued for hours in searing heat to have the chance to shop inside an Ikea store for the first time since lockdown in March.

The homewares giant reopened its doors at 19 sites across England and Northern Ireland on Monday morning, with new safety measures in place and limits on the number of customers allowed in at any one time.

In Tottenham, north London, shoppers arrived before the 10am opening time and queues snaked around an inside car park.

Social distancing ‘wardens’ wearing masks patrolled the area, guiding people around a one-way system, and making sure they kept two metres apart. Customers were then let in 10 at a time.

One shopper said he had queued since 10am, waiting until 1.30pm before he was allowed in.

Another, Jack Parkes, 33, from Edmonton, north London, said he had queued for two hours before buying a dressing table and some mirrors for his daughter’s room.

‘People will probably think I’m mad for bothering, but to be honest it’s another reason to leave the house after being told to stay inside for so long.’

He added: ‘It was a clean and safe environment for people to shop in.’

Belfast also saw some of the large lines. Two customers, Samantha Fisher and her daughter Atlanta, from Groomsport, near Bangor in Co Down, queued from 8am in order to shop for a bedroom they wanted to furnish which had lain empty for weeks during the pandemic lockdown. 

Members of the public are seen queueing around the carpark to gain entry into the newly reopened Southampton branch of IKEA

Members of the public are seen queueing around the carpark to gain entry into the newly reopened Southampton branch of IKEA

People queue outside of Ikea Greenwich. The furniture and housewares chain reopened its stores across England and Northern Ireland subject to several restrictions, keeping its restaurants closed and asking customers to shop alone

People queue outside of Ikea Greenwich. The furniture and housewares chain reopened its stores across England and Northern Ireland subject to several restrictions, keeping its restaurants closed and asking customers to shop alone

Members of the public are seen queueing around the carpark to gain entry into the newly reopened Southampton branch of IKEA

Members of the public are seen queueing around the carpark to gain entry into the newly reopened Southampton branch of IKEA

Huge numbers of people lined up in Southampton to visit IKEA today, despite the sunny skies and hot weather this afternoon

Huge numbers of people lined up in Southampton to visit IKEA today, despite the sunny skies and hot weather this afternoon

Socially-distanced queues flood the car park of the Ikea in Southampton this afternoon after it opened for the first time since lockdown was imposed

Socially-distanced queues flood the car park of the Ikea in Southampton this afternoon after it opened for the first time since lockdown was imposed

People queuing in Greenwich, London. The furniture and housewares chain reopened its stores across England and Northern Ireland subject to several restrictions, keeping its restaurants closed and asking customers to shop alone

People queuing in Greenwich, London. The furniture and housewares chain reopened its stores across England and Northern Ireland subject to several restrictions, keeping its restaurants closed and asking customers to shop alone

Staff at Ikea prepare for the return to business, showing off hand sanitisers which are positioned throughout branches

Staff at Ikea prepare for the return to business, showing off hand sanitisers which are positioned throughout branches

Customers queuing at the checkouts in the IKEA Lakeside store in Grays, Essex, as it reopens to the public today

Customers queuing at the checkouts in the IKEA Lakeside store in Grays, Essex, as it reopens to the public today

The customers waiting for the checkout in Grays, Essex appear to be following social distancing guidelines, though shoppers are thronged closer together in some parts

The customers waiting for the checkout in Grays, Essex appear to be following social distancing guidelines, though shoppers are thronged closer together in some parts

Shoppers in London wait to get into their local branch of Ikea after the Swedish retailer opened today following the relaxation of some lockdown restrictions

Shoppers in London wait to get into their local branch of Ikea after the Swedish retailer opened today following the relaxation of some lockdown restrictions

Many customers wore face masks, while Ikea staff members appeared to be dressed in full PPE gear as the store reopened

Many customers wore face masks, while Ikea staff members appeared to be dressed in full PPE gear as the store reopened

The furniture and housewares chain reopened its stores across England and Northern Ireland subject to several restrictions

The furniture and housewares chain reopened its stores across England and Northern Ireland subject to several restrictions

Prior to reopening, Ikea bosses said wardens will patrol stores to help shoppers and ensure they keep their distance from each other.

Families are banned, with the business saying it will only allow one adult and one child per household inside the store at any one point.

The 19 stores reopening are Croydon, Greenwich, Lakeside, Wembley, Tottenham, Norwich collection point, Birmingham, Nottingham, Belfast, Manchester, Warrington, Gateshead, Leeds, Sheffield, Milton Keynes, Reading, Southampton, Bristol and Exeter.

The Coventry store did not reopen and will remain closed permanently.

Play areas and restaurants will stay shut, but Ikea insists its popular meatballs will be available in food courts to cook at home.

Bosses had previously asked shoppers to ‘come prepared with ready-made lists and own bags’ for the reopening.

Click and collect facilities are also opening in a phased approach and in line with Government guidelines, with Ikea saying this will depend on which UK region stores are in.

Extra hand sanitiser and more deep cleans of bags, trolleys, bathrooms, equipment and touchscreens will take place.

Cash will not be accepted, with all payments by card or contactless device only, and customers should avoid travelling to stores just to process refunds because Ikea says it has a 365-day returns policy.

Mary Byfield, 49, began standing in line at 8am, outside the Wednesbury store, on a day temperatures were expected to reach 24C.

People outside Pret a Manger in Wood Green, north London United Kingdom on June 1 as restrictions are eased

People outside Pret a Manger in Wood Green, north London United Kingdom on June 1 as restrictions are eased

Wood Green: Londoners queue to enter a Pret a Manger as lockdown is eased following months of stringent restrictions

Wood Green: Londoners queue to enter a Pret a Manger as lockdown is eased following months of stringent restrictions 

The mum-of-one, from Great Bridge, West Midlands, said: ‘I couldn’t believe my eyes when I arrived. I thought I was early but there was already a massive queue here.

‘A couple of people had been here since 5.30am. It’s madness really but everything has been orderly so far. The traffic around the area is a nightmare though.

‘It’s going to be interesting to see how they are going to keep people safely apart as there’s going to be thousands going through the doors by the end of the day.

‘We’ve been redecorating during lockdown, but we’re just missing some finishing touches. I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time.

‘Everything seems to have gone up in price online and you can’t beat Ikea for a good bargain.’

Phillip Walker, 29, from Sneinton, Nottingham, waited for over an hour to get into his local store after queuing from 8.30am.

He added: ‘I brought along a camping chair as I thought everybody would be flocking here today.

‘I saw what other stores and fast food places have been like and knew it would be chaos.

‘But it’s been orderly chaos so far, I’m not sure if that’s all going to change once I get inside.

‘It’s taken well over an hour to get near the front of the queue. I just want to get in and out now – but not before I’ve bought some meatballs.’

Warrington: Customers socially distance themselves as the queue to enter Ikea in Warrington. The store opening saw large queues of people and traffic on adjacent roads

Warrington: Customers socially distance themselves as the queue to enter Ikea in Warrington. The store opening saw large queues of people and traffic on adjacent roads

Southampton: Members of the public are seen queueing around the carpark to gain entry into the newly reopened Southampton branch of IKEA on June 01

Southampton: Members of the public are seen queueing around the carpark to gain entry into the newly reopened Southampton branch of IKEA on June 01

Tottenham: A member of staff wearing a mask at Ikea in Tottenham as it reopens following months of coronavirus lockdown

Tottenham: A member of staff wearing a mask at Ikea in Tottenham as it reopens following months of coronavirus lockdown

Nottingham: Customers queue at IKEA, Nottingham before it reopens on June 1 following its closure during lockdown

Nottingham: Customers queue at IKEA, Nottingham before it reopens on June 1 following its closure during lockdown

Reading: Customers wait in line for the opening of an Ikea store on June 1 in Reading, Berkshire. Ikea had temporarily closed all 22 stores on March 22 following the outbreak of Covid-19

Reading: Customers wait in line for the opening of an Ikea store on June 1 in Reading, Berkshire. Ikea had temporarily closed all 22 stores on March 22 following the outbreak of Covid-19

Ikea had temporarily closed all 22 stores on March 22 following the outbreak of Covid-19.

Customers have now been asked to shop alone, use hand sanitisers dotted around the store and be prepared with ready-made lists and their own bags.

Play areas and restaurants will also remain shut, but shoppers can still get their hands on the store’s famous meatballs, which are available in food courts to take home.

Peter Jelkeby, Ikea’s UK and Ireland chief executive, said: ‘We’re looking forward to warmly welcoming customers and co-workers back into our stores from 1st June.

‘Their health and safety remains our top priority, and that’s why we’ve put in place extensive measures to ensure the safety and comfort of customers and co-workers.

‘While the experience might be a little different to before – it’s the same IKEA, with the vision to ‘create a better everyday life for the many people’, and the ambition to inspire people through our brilliant affordable range and home furnishing advice.

‘Throughout lockdown, we’ve had the unique privilege of being a part of people’s everyday lives at home, and we’re committed to continuing doing whatever we can to support our customers and co-workers on this next part of the journey we take together.’

Members of the public queue outside an Ikea store at Wembley in north-west London as it re-opens its doors following the easing of the lockdown restrictions

Members of the public queue outside an Ikea store at Wembley in north-west London as it re-opens its doors following the easing of the lockdown restrictions

Croydon: Flat-pack fans queue in their droves outside the south London IKEA after it opened today

Croydon: Flat-pack fans queue in their droves outside the south London IKEA after it opened today

Gatehead: A customer heaves his shopping out of IKEA as hundreds queue to enter the store after it opened today

Gatehead: A customer heaves his shopping out of IKEA as hundreds queue to enter the store after it opened today

Southampton: Giant queues form outside another IKEA with customers desperate for flat-pack wares after two months of lockdown

Southampton: Giant queues form outside another IKEA with customers desperate for flat-pack wares after two months of lockdown

Belfast: Customer crosses her arms as the wait continues to get inside IKEA in Northern Ireland

Belfast: Customer crosses her arms as the wait continues to get inside IKEA in Northern Ireland

Belfast: Hundreds of families queue in the sunshine to get into IKEA where new social-distancing measures are in place

Belfast: Hundreds of families queue in the sunshine to get into IKEA where new social-distancing measures are in place 

Hustle-and-bustle returns to outdoor markets while car showrooms reopen on day Britain gets back to business as lockdown measures are eased

  • Britons are being urged to be ‘sensible’ as they get more of their freedoms back following months of lockdown
  • They can see family again, open businesses across the country and send some children back to school 
  • But the Association of Directors of Public Health said that the lockdown is being eased too quickly
  • It comes as the latest figures show that the number of deaths for patients with coronavirus is nearing 40,000 

The UK’s coronavirus lockdown eases today with millions able to see friends and family and more businesses set to reopen – amid warnings the restrictions are being lifted too soon.  

Huge queues formed outside Ikea stores in Nottingham, Reading and Essex today as the Government urged Britons to act ‘sensibly’ as they enjoy a host of new freedoms. 

Outdoor markets and car showrooms will also be reopening this morning, while Primark, Sports Direct and House of Fraser are set to reopen later this month.

Primark owner Associated British Foods (ABF) said it is working to reopen all its 153 stores in England on June 15, after the Government gave non-essential retailers the go-ahead to welcome customers again. 

Sports Direct is expected to reopen from the same date, with House of Fraser doing the same shortly after.   

Stall holders prepare their stock at Kirkgate market in Leeds, north England following the easing of the lockdown restrictions

Stall holders prepare their stock at Kirkgate market in Leeds, north England following the easing of the lockdown restrictions

A stall worker serves customers at Portobello Road Market in London this morning as lockdown restrictions are eased

A stall worker serves customers at Portobello Road Market in London this morning as lockdown restrictions are eased

A man wearing a mask shops at Leicester market this morning as Britain begins to see some aspects of normality returning

A man wearing a mask shops at Leicester market this morning as Britain begins to see some aspects of normality returning

Signs ask customers to observe social distancing measures and stay two meters (2m) apart, at a food truck at Kirkgate market in Leeds, north England

Signs ask customers to observe social distancing measures and stay two meters (2m) apart, at a food truck at Kirkgate market in Leeds, north England

A car dealership re-opens in West London. Renault new and used car sales on the A40 near Acton. Face masks , wipes, and gloves are at the entrance for customers and staff to use, along with tape on the floor to guide people

A car dealership re-opens in West London. Renault new and used car sales on the A40 near Acton. Face masks , wipes, and gloves are at the entrance for customers and staff to use, along with tape on the floor to guide people

Dr Jeanelle de Gruchy told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘The five tests haven’t yet been met.

‘In terms of the R (rate of infection), it’s 0.7 to 0.9 in the latest Government assessment. It is below one but it’s a very limited room for manoeuvre isn’t it and we know how quickly this virus can spread and it’s difficult to predict then with quite a lot of the measures being eased at once what the impact that will have on the R value.

‘We’re also concerned about meeting all the other operational challenges ready to meet a potential rise in infections.’

She said the national testing programme and the test and trace scheme must be ‘robust and ready’, and that personal protective equipment (PPE) supply must be adequate.

‘We’re not feeling just yet that we’re confident enough to meet any potential challenge if the Government goes too quickly on easing lockdown measures,’ she added.

Primark owner Associated British Foods (ABF) said it is working to reopen all its 153 stores in England on June 15, having already reopened 112 of its sites across mainland Europe. 

The government’s five tests previously stated that before easing lockdown it must be ‘confident that any adjustments to the current measures will not risk a second peak of infections’.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove yesterday praised the ‘terrific dedication’ of the public for sticking to the restrictions over the past two months, but urged them to continue social distancing.

Outdoor markets like this one in east London are reopening again today as the lockdown was eased further

Outdoor markets like this one in east London are reopening again today as the lockdown was eased further

The Central Line in London today, which the capital's mayor Sadiq Khan says will be overwhelmed if it is used by non key workers

The Central Line in London today, which the capital’s mayor Sadiq Khan says will be overwhelmed if it is used by non key workers

The government's five tests previously stated that before easing lockdown it must be 'confident that any adjustments to the current measures will not risk a second peak of infections' (pictured: Kirkgate today)

The government’s five tests previously stated that before easing lockdown it must be ‘confident that any adjustments to the current measures will not risk a second peak of infections’ (pictured: Kirkgate today)

One reason ministers say the lockdown can be lifted is the rollout of the test-and-trace programme. They claim they can carry out 200,000 tests a day (pictured: Kirkgate market in Leeds today)

One reason ministers say the lockdown can be lifted is the rollout of the test-and-trace programme. They claim they can carry out 200,000 tests a day (pictured: Kirkgate market in Leeds today)

Slow down! Public health officers warn lockdown is falling apart too fast 

Experts have warned that the coronavirus lockdown is being eased too quickly making a second spike ‘inevitable’ and police have said the rules are now ‘unenforceable’ as Britons are again expected to swamp beaches and parks because of more scorching weather. 

The Government is urging Britons to act ‘sensibly’ as they enjoy a host of new freedoms, which experts have claimed are coming too fast and will make a second a second spike in UK Covid-19 cases ‘inevitable’.    

Professor Devi Sridhar, chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, said that a second spike of cases in Britain seems likely. 

She said: ‘Looking at other countries in East Asia it seems in some way inevitable. Other countries have shown there’s a path to controlling this outbreak. 

‘This is about getting a robust testing, tracing and isolating system up and running. It’s about having monitoring in schools, care homes, hospitals and institutions so you can quickly detect if there are new cases and make sure you break up those clusters. 

‘This is about mandatory masks on public transport. What’s really frustrating is there are things that can be done quite simply that aren’t being done’. 

This was echoed by Dr Jenny Harries, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, who said ‘we need to be very careful’ at this ‘critical time’.

She added: ‘We have to keep applying the social distancing measures, limit the number of interactions we have. Very carefully and sensibly pick up those easements to make our lives better, but not overdo it. So limit the number of interactions.’

Dr Harries said it was important to do not just what is possible, but what is ‘sensible’. She added: ‘What is sensible to do is have as few interactions as possible as you can with other people in all settings.’

One reason ministers say the lockdown can be lifted is the rollout of the test-and-trace programme. They claim they can carry out 200,000 tests a day.

However, the latest figures yesterday showed the Government carried out just 115,725 tests in the past 24 hours.

Despite the Government’s optimism, there is growing dissent among scientists over measures being lifted while the number of new cases is still very high.

Six have publicly criticised the decision, four of whom are members of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).

Professor Peter Openshaw, a member of Sage and an expert in experimental medicine at Imperial College London, said there needed to be a ‘massive gearing up’ of testing and tracing before the restrictions were eased to ‘any large degree’.

He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme: ‘To me, we need the numbers [of cases] to be much lower. We need also to gear up test-and-trace in order to be able to cope with many thousands of cases which are now being seen.’

Meanwhile Professor Devi Sridhar, an expert in global public health at Edinburgh University, told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme: ‘It’s a big risk and gamble for exiting lockdown with a larger number of deaths than we did when we actually entered lockdown months back.’

Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show there are an average of 7,700 new cases of coronavirus a day in England, with data from Kings College London suggesting there are 11,300 infections daily across the UK.

From today, groups of up to six family members or friends will be able to meet up outside provided they keep two metres apart. 

Despite the Government's optimism, there is growing dissent among scientists over measures being lifted while the number of new cases is still very high (pictured: Kirkgate today)

Despite the Government’s optimism, there is growing dissent among scientists over measures being lifted while the number of new cases is still very high (pictured: Kirkgate today)

A car dealership re-opens in West London. Renault new and used car sales on the A40 near Acton

A car dealership re-opens in West London. Renault new and used car sales on the A40 near Acton

A notice at a car dealership in west London reads 'Covid-19: Your safety is our highest priority' as businesses reopen across the country

A notice at a car dealership in west London reads ‘Covid-19: Your safety is our highest priority’ as businesses reopen across the country

Mr Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said: ‘It is thanks to the terrific dedication of the British public, alongside the continued hard work of our NHS, that we are able today to move to step two of our recovery strategy and begin to carefully ease some lockdown measures.

‘With children returning to schools, some shops reopening and a chance to see friends and loved ones outside our households, this is an important step for our wellbeing and that of the country. But we must stay alert and it is absolutely vital that everyone continues to follow social distancing guidelines so that we can control the spread of the virus. The message to the public is simple: Stay alert, control the virus, save lives.’

PRIMARK PLANS TO REOPEN ALL 153 STORES IN ENGLAND ON JUNE 15 

Primark owner Associated British Foods (ABF) has said it is working to reopen all its 153 stores in England on June 15, after the Government gave non-essential retailers the go-ahead to welcome customers again.

It said that it expects to have reopened 281 of its stores by that date, having already reopened 112 of its sites across mainland Europe.

The retailer said it is awaiting further guidance regarding stores in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales but anticipates openings in ‘late June’.

ABF shut all its Primark stores in March in the face of coronavirus, which it said resulted in a loss of around £650 million for every month that all stores were closed.

It said that it cut more than 50% off overheads at Primark in a bid to stabilise its finances during the pandemic.

In a statement, the company said: ‘As European governments have begun to ease restrictions on clothing retailing we have been able to reopen stores.

‘Safety has been our highest priority in our detailed preparations to welcome our customers and employees back to stores. We are following government safety advice in all markets.

‘Importantly, we will apply the valuable experience gained from more than 100 stores which are already open as we open the remainder of our estate, including stores across the UK.

‘Social distancing protocols, hand sanitiser stations, perspex screens at tills and additional cleaning of high frequency touch points in the store are among the measures we are implementing.’

The retailer said trading has been ‘reassuring and encouraging’ in its recently reopened stores, with queues outside most sites.

Nevertheless, it said cumulative like-for-like sales since reopening have been lower than the same period last year.

The firm added that ‘as long as social distancing is required, we expect it to restrict the capacity of our busiest stores from achieving their aggregate pre-Covid-19 sales’.

Meanwhile, ABF said operating profits in its grocery business will be ahead of forecasts after ‘stronger sales’ of branded products, although profits in its sugar arm are predicted to slip.

John Bason, chief finance officer of ABF, told the PA news agency that the company feels ‘well prepared’ to welcome Primark customers back to stores.

He said: ‘We’ve largely been able to take the successful operations from overseas and introduce them to the UK stores.

‘We’ve changed the way customers will queue to avoid bottle-necking, but have been able to keep a lot of the experience similar to what customers are used to.

‘Our higher density stores, like on Oxford Street, will be more impacted by the social distancing measures, but we think the majority will still be able to perform on track despite the measures.’

Shares in the company jumped 7.6% to 138.7p in early trading on Monday.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab also defended the plan, saying: ‘We can’t just stay in lockdown forever. We have got to transition.’

Asked whether rules will be tightened again if infection rates increase, Mr Raab said: ‘If there is any uptick – and it could be in a locality, it could be in a particular setting – we will target very carefully measures that would apply to it, so we can take these steps but also keep control of the virus.’

Contact tracing was abandoned in March, but was relaunched as the NHS’s flagship test-and-trace scheme last Thursday.

It has faced a chaotic first few days with operators claiming they were not fully trained and only told the night before that the scheme was going live. Many of the ‘tracers’ also suffered IT issues.   

The Government is ‘taking some risk’ by relaxing lockdown measures while the number of new cases of coronavirus recorded each day remains ‘relatively high’, an expert in infectious diseases has said.

Professor John Edmunds, who attends meetings of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) supporting the Government, said many experts would ‘prefer’ to see the number of Covid-19 infections drop before measures such as a relaxation on social interaction restrictions were introduced.

Latest data from the Office for National Statistics suggests there are an estimated 54,000 new coronavirus infections a week in England outside of hospital and care settings, equating to nearly 8,000 per day.

The so-called R value, or reproduction rate, is currently between 0.7 and 0.9, and must remain under one to avoid a rise in infections – a key test on whether lockdown measures should be eased, with the Government stressing the need to avoid a second wave of cases which would threaten to overwhelm the NHS.

Prof Edmunds, speaking during a Science Media Centre briefing, said the decision to relax certain rules came with a degree of risk.

He said: ‘I think many of us would prefer to see the incidence driven down to lower levels because that would mean we have fewer cases occurring before we relaxed the measures.

‘If we had incidents at a lower level, even if the reproduction level went up a bit, we wouldn’t be in a position where we were overwhelming the health service.

‘I think at the moment with relatively high incidents, relaxing the measures and with an untested track and trace system, I think we are taking some risk here.

‘Even if that risk doesn’t play out and we keep the incidents flat, we’re keeping it flat at quite a high level.’

The Government has launched its track and trace system designed to limit the spread of infection by ordering contacts of those who become infected with coronavirus to isolate.

Prof Edmunds, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, supported the decision to essentially substitute a ‘blanket approach’ to containing the virus with a targeted one, adding it saw a return to ‘some level of normality’.

He added: ‘None of us think, who have looked at this in any great detail, that that will be sufficient to be able to hold the reproduction number below one.

‘We all think we will have to have quite significant numbers of wider social distance measures in place.

‘The basic reproduction number for this virus is perhaps three, maybe even more, so we cannot relax our guard by very much at all.’

He said there was a need to try and get the economy restarted, to get people back to work and to provide a boost to people’s mental health.

But he said even if track and trace kept the R-value at about one, it would still result in around 8,000 community infections a day in England.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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