How shopping, going to the gym and air travel could change forever after lockdown

Safely easing lockdown restrictions will be a tough challenge for businesses as they seek to maintain social distancing measures.

Sunday, 3rd May 2020, 3:15 pm
Updated Sunday, 3rd May 2020, 3:16 pm

Next week, firms will have a "road map" from the Government on how restrictions will be eased, the Prime Minister has promised.

So how are things likely to change for industries where the public are in close contact?

Air travel

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Shopping in Sheffield

Heathrow Airport boss John Holland-Kaye told the PA news agency it would be "physically impossible" to maintain social distancing measures at airports and that there will need to be better health checks of passengers.

He said UK airports should follow countries in Asia which have introduced screening measures, temperature checks and improved hygiene procedures. Passengers may also be required to wear masks during flights.

Mr Holland Kaye added: "The constraint is not about how many people you can fit on a plane, it will be how many people you can get through an airport safely."

Travellers could also be told to arrive up to four hours ahead of their departure time to allow for extra measures, such as being swabbed and tested for the virus before being able to go through security.

Independent aviation analysts have said planes would have to be fully disinfected after every flight, meaning ticket prices could increase.

Low-cost airline Wizz Air was to resume some flights from Luton airport on Friday, with passengers required to wear face masks.

Crew will also wear masks and will keep a distance between passengers during boarding.

Pubs and restaurants

Major takeaway chains such as KFC, Burger King and Pret A Manger started reopening a few branches this week.

They have introduced strict safety and social distancing measures including regular handwashing and sanitising every 30 minutes. There are also restrictions on the amount of customers allowed in a store at the same time.

Meanwhile, pubs are braced for large swathes of people eager to visit their locals when they reopen again.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said: "At this stage it is difficult to say when pubs are expected to reopen and what the future of the pub looks like. We are looking to the Government to provide us more detail on when pubs can go back to business and how they will be able to operate.

"Our members take the safety of their staff very seriously, when pubs reopen our members will be considering as a matter of the highest priority how to keep staff and customers safe while maintaining the pub experience."

It has also been reported that pub landlords may be asked to ration alcohol after the coronavirus lockdown, with a two or three pint limit for customers.

The All Party Parliamentary Group for Hospitality and Tourism has also launched an urgent inquiry into how the sectors could reopen.

Theatres and cinemas

It is unclear how theatres and cinemas will begin reopening after the lockdown is lifted and firms will need to decide how to maintain social distancing in venues where hundreds of people are in close proximity.

Options have included keeping every other seat empty - which could have a financial impact on smaller venues - or checking the temperature of customers before they enter.

In the meantime, theatre productions and new release films have been streamed online.

Gyms

Humphrey Cobbold, chief executive of PureGym, told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme the chain was working to upgrade the hygiene and sanitisation regime to ensure customers' safety when facilities are allowed to reopen again.

He said: "The right approach is a considered and careful opening. We will probably, when permitted by government, start by opening half a dozen sites and then expand from there when we're confident that we have a model that's safe and secure for members for the future."

Elsewhere, Virgin Active will inform customers when they will reopen clubs "once it is safe to do so based on government advice".

Gym members could also be asked to perform frequent hand-washing during visits.

Shopping

In the coming weeks, some non-essential businesses will be allowed to open, it is believed. This includes garden centres and car showrooms, provided social distancing can be maintained.

Lobby group the British Retail Consortium has guidelines on ensuring the safe reopening of non-essential firms.

Suggestions include limiting entry and exit points, using floor markings to outline social distancing and keeping changing rooms closed.

The guidance also suggests installing cleaning stations with hand sanitiser and disinfectant wipes at the front of stores.

Contactless payments would be encouraged and self-checkout stations cleaned regularly. Staff who serve customers are to be protected with screens, visors and gloves.

Other measures may include one-way systems through stores, a cap on how many people are allowed in at any given time and security guards at the door.

Religious services

It is not yet clear how funeral, wedding and other church services will take place after lockdown ends.

Churches have speculated about limiting the number of attendees and stopping hymns to prevent spreading the virus.

Priests could also be told to keep two metres away while giving the blessing at weddings and a new system could be implemented for handing over rings.

Worshippers at mosques may also be asked to wear face masks and bring their own rugs to minimise the risk of infection.