The retail trade union Usdaw has blasted the Prime Minister and UK government’s plans on lifting safety measures in stores as “too much too soon” following Boris Johnson’s latest address to the nation to move ahead with the release of Covid restrictions from July 19th.
This week Johnson told the country that while the country was still “very far from the end” of the pandemic, it was now or never to lift controls by taking advantage of the vaccine roll-out and the upcoming “natural firebreak” offered by the school holidays and good weather.
The government is set to make a final decision on the plans to release the remaining restrictions on July 12th. Should the decision be to go ahead with the fourth stage of restriction easing, then July 19th will witness the removal of all social distancing restrictions and obligations to wear masks in public and crowded spaces.
The plan however, has been slammed by the retail trade union Usdaw who says it is ‘too much, too soon,’ and warns that the Government ‘should not be weakening safety measures in shops at the same time as opening up other venues.’
Paddy Lillis, Usdaw general secretary, said: “There is no reason why requirements to wear face coverings and maintain social distancing in busy public areas like shops cannot continue.
“Wearing a face covering in crowded public areas like shops is not merely a personal choice, it is an important measure to help protect workers who have no option but to interact with large numbers of people as part of their job.
Lillis has urged the shopping public to continue to wear face coverings, along with hand sanitisation and maintaining social distancing ‘to help make shops safer and limit the spread of Covid-19.
“We also continue to call on employers to maintain appropriate safety measures and ensure that they are being followed consistently, in every store.”
Lillis added that key workers such as supermarket workers and delivery drivers – those who have worked throughout the pandemic – “must be valued, respected, and protected.”
The British Retail Consortium has taken a measured response to the Prime Minister’s press conference.
Tom Ironside, director of business and regulations at the BRC, said: “Retailers await the government’s final decision on July 12 about the easing of restrictions the following week. It will take consumers and businesses time to adjust and it is vital that Government messaging is clear and consistent so that businesses and consumers easily understand what is expected of them both legally and individually.”
Professor Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), which advises the government, said cases could conceivably hit 150,000-200,000 a day, which he predicted would “cause some pressure to the health system”.
“This is a slight gamble, it’s a slight experiment at the moment, and I think it’s justifiable and I’m reasonably optimistic, but policy will have to remain flexible,” he said.