Andover’s town centre may not look much different today, even though lockdown rules are ‘easing’.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson now permits groups of up to 6 people to meet in outdoor spaces – providing people remain 2 metres apart. From today, car showrooms are also permitted to open.
This comes on the day that Reception Class and Years 1 and 2 may return to school.
However, Andover like many other town centres with coffee shops, retail shops and hairdressers will have to wait a little longer.
Non-essential businesses may open in two weeks’ time (Monday 15th June), while pubs, hairdressers and cafes should be able to open on July 4th. However, even then, there will be strict guidelines on how you may go shopping and some differences inside each store.
SHOPS AND RETAIL
The perspex screens in front of cash tills in shops an supermarkets are now a familiar scene, these are likely to be installed at more stores. The government says businesses must adhere to strict Covid-19 guidelines.
A weekly video conference meeting between Test Valley Borough Council, NHS, Police and business stakeholders to discuss the town’s Covid-19 response is due to take place this afternoon at 1:00pm.
Test Valley Borough Council and Andover’s Business Improvement District Company are working to ensure ‘crowd control’ measures are in place and that each business has a Covid-19 Risk Assessment before they are permitted to open.
Steve Godwin from Andover BID told Andover Radio, “We are delighted to be working with a local company Saxon Safety who are experts in their field and at this critical time for the high street which sits at the heart of every community”.
Carl Sievewright from Saxon Safety is confident that Andover is going to be ready to allow businesses to open safely. He said, “[The service] includes a survey and detailed risk assessment to comply with Government guidelines as well as being able to provide safety equipment, and social distancing products such as signage and floor stickers.”
It is expected that some shops will have a one-way system in place, you will be asked to continue to maintain the 2 metre distancing rule and do expect there to be huge amounts of signage and street markings to try and control queues.
It is also hoped that there will be new ‘Street Rangers’ to assist shoppers and retailers adhere to the rules.
Many places will ask you to pay by contactless card payments to avoid the unnecessary handling of cash and you will be asked to only touch items you are going to buy.
Retailers, bookshops and electrical stores are able to open from Monday 15th June, but that date that has already been delayed by a fortnight. It is understood that Waterstones will quarantine books for 72 hours if a customer touches a book without buying it.
It is expected that the number of customers in a store at any given time will be limited and staff at the Chantry Centre are expected to control the number of people who may enter the premises. Love Andover hopes further information may be available later today.
Banks, pharmacies and pertrol stations were allowed to stay open through the crisis and Garden Centres were permitted to reopen on May 13th.
Whereas buying a new car may be off the shopping list for many who have suffered a reduced income in recent months, car showrooms are permitted to open from today.
The British Retail Consortium thinks it will take some time for the economy to pick up, even after all stores are allowed to re-open. They say that the current lockdown is costing non-essential retailers £1.8bn a week in lost sales. They also say, “Evidence from other countries suggest that despite a initial bounce in spending in the weeks after restrictions are lifted, discretionary spend is likely to remain subdued”.
HAIR, BEER AND LATTES
56-year old Ray Whiting from Andover believes that things will not get fully back to normal until the pubs re-open. “I think we’ll start to feel like everything is back to normal when the pubs open. Pubs are an essential part of the community and British life”.
Pubs are expected to be able to open their doors on Monday July 4th, although punters should expect some notable differences.
“Currently we expect to limit the number of people in the building at any one time” says Victoria Harber, landlady of the Queen Charlotte Inn. “We are lucky to have a garden and some breweries may be supplying a mobile phone app so that customers can order from their tables rather than queue inside at the bar.”
It is expected that some pubs without sufficient outdoor areas may find they have further restrictions put in place to limit customer contact. The use of perspex screening between bartenders and customers has also been discussed within the pub trade.
Hairdressers should be able to open their salon doors on Monday 4th July, a date that Vanessa Cleary from Salon 73 has been looking forward to since her salon at Basepoint closed in March. Vanessa has been producing a daily video of the life of her business in lockdown.
However the same July 4th opening date is not expected to be extended to beauty salons and other ‘public space’ businesses where social distancing may be difficult. The government have said that beauty salons may open ‘significantly later’, depending on when the rate of infection falls.
The Blue Onion Cafe in Andover is already open as a take-away only service and although it’s anticipated that coffee shops will open on July 4th, there will be social distancing measures in place and some government guidance refers to ‘hospitality firms may have to wait longer to reopen’.
To support the reopening of our town centre, Test Valley Borough Council have retained free parking in council-owned car parks until June 22nd, for a while thereafter they will offer a two-hour free period before full charges kick in.
Note to businesses: You will need a Covid-19 Risk Assessment before opening, these are being provided free of charge from Saxon Safety through the Andover BID company.