Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday yesterday unveiled his ‘Living with Covid’ plan, which will see the country treat coronavirus in the same way as it does viruses like flu or colds.

This will mean that the final remnants of Covid legislation and restriction will be withdrawn by the Government.

While some Britons have taken to social media to express their opinion that the announcement is coming too soon, the news is something of a blessing for the retail sector which has struggled with low footfall since March 2020 and, in more recent months, low staff levels due to the fast spread of the Omicron variant in particular.

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Here, two of the UK’s highest-profile retail experts have given their verdict on the news.

Responding to the PM’s ‘Living with Covid’ plan, Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “The lifting of the legal requirement to self-isolate may further speed the return to a more normal experience for customers, employees and businesses.

“Retailers will be looking closely at the details of the plans. However, we all have a personal responsibility towards the safety of those around us and we ask customers to be considerate of those around them and avoid retail settings if they are showing Covid symptoms.”

Meanwhile, in response to the news, BIRA’s CEO Andrew Goodacre said: “In general we welcome the further reduction in restrictions. It always feels counter-intuitive to remove restriction when cases are so high, but we hope the science supports such moves.

“The positive is that it will hopefully encourage more people back to the high street, secure in the knowledge that shopping is a safe activity and one to be enjoyed. We would also welcome positive statements from the government to this effect.

“With consumer confidence being so fragile (due to the financial squeeze) to gain the maximum positive impact from ‘living with Covid’ we must have the following:

• Clear messages on the behaviours expected and absolute clarity on things like face coverings. I doubt that shops will remove the perspex screens just yet because they are largely unobtrusive and may be needed in the future;
• Clear messages on the isolation rules, especially for retail workers. We also know that free testing will no longer be available from April 1, which we are also concerned about. Employers have a duty of care and need to know if they are required to provide testing facilities to employees – if yes, then the kits should be free to employers;
• Reassurance that we can look forward with positivity, whilst accepting that Covid has not gone away.

“Removal of Covid restriction should be positive for retail and the high street in general. This is an opportunity for the government to give a helping hand to retailers by ensuring that the messaging and directives to the general public are clear and unambiguous.

“By doing this there is a better chance that consumer confidence in high streets will return and make 2022 the real year of revival for retail. Let’s not forget that 75% of all retail sales still occur in shops and this could go even higher with the right support.”

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