Store reopenings could cause second wave of Covid-19, experts warn

Covid-19 lockdown reopening SAGE

Experts have warned that the reopening of shops could cause a second wave of coronavirus as social distancing measures may not be complied.

Customers need 108sq ft space to be able to socially distance once stores reopen from June 15.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) advisers said that stores must give each shopper at least 107sq ft of “dynamic space” or they risk a second wave of Covid-19.

The study also found that each person requires 118sq ft in larger shops and 129sq ft outdoors.

The SAGE advisers’ warning comes as North West and South West England have seen their R rate rise over 1.

The High Streets Task Force wrote in a recent paper that this is a “complex” issue that will also require the careful management of people once they are in a space, coupled with self-discipline and compliance from the public.

“As well as the size of the floorspace, the layout and positioning of goods, entrance and exit points, and point of sale arrangements will have a large impact on what the final capacity may be for an individual retail environment.”

The study notes that its estimations “do not account for the specific characteristics” of some spaces.

Currently, government guidance advises employers to define the “number of customers than reasonably follow two-metre social distancing”.

It added: “Shopping centres should take responsibility for regulating the number of customers in the centre and the queuing process in communal areas on behalf of their retail tenants.”

Meanwhile, Matt Hancock recently raised the prospect of North West and South West England going back into full lockdown to combat local surges in coronavirus infection.

Both regions have seen their crucial R rate rise above 1, the benchmark for avoiding another crisis.

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