Coronavirus: ‘The new normal’ – This is how the UK might operate once lockdown is eased | UK News

Boris Johnson has declared the lockdown must stay in place and that he “cannot spell out now how fast, or slow, or when changes will be made”.

Mr Johnson said modifications would be announced in due course “with the maximum possible transparency”, while Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said people will have to get used to a “new normal” due to coronavirus – with social distancing measures set to remain in place for “some time”.

But what might that “new normal” look like?

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Shops and non-essential businesses

A move away from the current restrictions would include the continuation of social distancing.

Mr Raab has suggested businesses and factories which have been shuttered since mid-March may need to change how they work and have in place the kind of social distancing measures enforced by the essential shops and other workplaces that have remained open, to keep employees and customers two metres apart.

This includes 2m queues, like those seen outside supermarkets and DIY stores, and one-way systems and plastic screens at tills to ensure there is no physical contact between staff and shoppers.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks outside 10 Downing Street after recovering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), London, Britain, April 27, 2020. REUTERS/John Sibley

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Offices have also had to enforce similar rules by changing floor layouts or limiting staff in the office to ensure the 2m rule is adhered to, with plenty of hand sanitisers and cleaning products available.

Clothing shops could reopen in a similar fashion, according to guidelines published by the British Retail Consortium, which has advised retailers to consider closing and restricting access to toilets and changing rooms.

Other measures include separate entrances and exists, discouraging cash payments and increased cleaning and hygiene habits.

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Carmakers including Jaguar Land Rover, Aston Martin and Nissan have announced the gradual resumption of production at plants, which will also require physical distancing rules in place.

In Germany, Volkswagen has announced production capacity in its Wolfsburg plant will be around 10-15% to begin with, and reach around 40% of pre-crisis levels after a week.

The carmaker has overhauled its procedures to include extra hygiene measures. Workers have been told to measure their temperature and to get changed into their overalls at home, to prevent crowding in factory changing rooms.

Extra markings have been put on the factory floor so that workers are better able to adhere to a 1.5m social distancing rule (it is likely to remain 2m in the UK), and staff have been given extra time to disinfect their tools and surfaces.

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Restaurants, cafes and pubs

Redesigned dining rooms, kitchens and beer gardens may be the way out of the lockdown for pubs, cafes and restaurants too, provided they can guarantee customers and staff stick to the 2m social distancing rule.

Countries including Austria and Italy have announced the reopening of establishments from May and June respectively.

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Limits could be put on class sizes, as suggested by the Scottish government last week when it set out how it will approach plans to ease the lockdown.

“Classrooms may have to be redesigned to allow social distancing, so maybe not all children can go back to, and be at, school at the same time,” said Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

“Do we have to take classes and divide them into two, where half of the class is there one week and the other half another week?” she said. “Or one half in the morning and the other in the afternoon?”

Similar guidelines – spacing between desks, breaks at different times, facilities for washing hands and adequate supplies of disinfectant – have also been drawn-up by officials in Germany for a gradual reopening of schools from 4 May. Some states have already reopened schools, according to German media reports.

Such modifications have already been applied in Denmark, where children in certain year groups have been returning to nurseries and schools, while other students must continue to study from home.

Mr Raab has said it is “inconceivable” schools could reopen without “further measures” in place to stop the spread of the disease.

Ms Sturgeon has warned she could delay any lifting of the restrictions in Scotland if she thought the government at Westminster was moving too quickly.

A Taylor Wimpey housing development in Telford where building work has ceased as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. PA Photo. Picture date: Monday March 30, 2020

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Some firms and house-builders have started to reopen sites or have announced when operations will resume in May.

Among them is Taylor Wimpey, which has said it is using “detailed new site operating protocols developed in compliance with strict social distancing requirements”.

Chief executive Pete Redfern said last week: “We are now confident that we have clear plans and processes in place so we can safely start back on site in a phased way.”

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However, construction union Unite has called for the Health and Safety Executive to ramp up site visits to police social distancing on sites.

New guidance from the Construction Leadership Council states that where workers are required to work within two metres of each other, they should “work side by side, or facing away from each other, rather than face to face”.

When this is impossible, workers should “keep this to 15 minutes or less where possible”.

Unite has written to Business Secretary Alok Sharma, claiming procedures have been “watered-down” compared with previous versions and saying this “undermines the safety of workers on construction sites and may even become a contributory factor to the spread of COVID-19 in our communities”.

Under European law, carriers have to fill their slots at major airports such as Heathrow at least 80% of the time or they risk losing them.

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International travel

Mr Raab has said officials are also looking at possible sea and airport checks, with passengers arriving in the UK required to quarantine for 14 days. This would apply to foreign tourists and UK citizens.

It is believed that it could form part of the government’s “test, track and trace” policy to isolate new cases of the disease, further curbing its spread, as the numbers come down.

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