Shoppers surge back to high street after stores re-open following easing of lockdown restrictions

  • From Monday non-essential retailers are allowed to return to business
  • Shops enforce capacity limits resulting in queues filling the streets
  • Fears of social distancing rules not being in place due to the lack of space

After three months of retail stores being closed due to coronavirus lockdown rules, shoppers filled Manchester city centre to buy non-essential items such clothes, shoes and books.

It follows the easing of restrictions as part of the Government’s three-stage plan against Covid-19 and towards a “new normal” for the UK.

Social distancing rules are being enforced and safety measures are in place for both customers and staff, including floor markings and plastic till screenings. Customers are also encouraged to not touch items unless they want to purchase them.


Some shoppers in the city centre were not wearing face masks
Market Street filled with shoppers     Image: Sam Goodman 


The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said that it was “vital” that retail establishments “ensure they are meeting Covid-secure guidelines.”

Large retailers such as Foot Locker and TK Maxx which have been closed since 23 March experienced queues up to an hour long.

Primark opened all 153 of its England stores and large queues stretch across Market Street in Manchester, prompting fears that shoppers may not be adhering to the two-metre social distancing rule.


Ashleigh McCormick, from Holland and Barrett on Market Street, said: “It feels surreal seeing all these people on Market Street. It’s something I haven’t seen for months now.”

Holland and Barrett is one of the few shops which remained open throughout lock down.

Ashleigh said: “I think it should be made compulsory to wear face masks in shops too, as we’re such confined spaces and it’s only going to get busier.”

Many stores are supplying staff with masks and gloves to help reduce the risk, but lots of shoppers in the centre on the first day of opening yesterday were not wearing face masks.

Councillor Pat Karney, an executive member for the city centre, said: “I will wear a mask when going to shops as both a precaution and a reassurance. We all have a responsibility to look after our health and we all still have a role to play in limiting the virus.”

The council has installed extra-signage across the city centre as a reminder of the need for social distancing rules and uniformed street marshalls are working to ensure busy footfall areas such as Market Street can deal with crowding issues efficiently.


Sandra Williams, a shopper on Market Street, said: “I’m happy things are getting back to normal. I probably should have waited a couple days for it to calm down though, I just didn’t expect this many people to come out!”

From this week, it is compulsory to wear face masks on public transport with operators able to refuse travel or issue penalty fines for those failing to follow these rules.

The hospitality industry and beauty salons will remain closed until 4 July at the earliest. Businesses in these sectors are urging that the two-metre distance limit is reduced due the physical limitations it will cause in settings such as pubs and restaurants, making it difficult for struggling businesses to return to normal.

Boris Johnson has commissioned a review into distancing rules as the number of coronavirus cases continues to fall.