Chaos on London’s Oxford Street as thousands defy social distancing to shop again

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Thousands of people have taken to some of the country’s busiest high streets as retailers reopen their doors for the first time since March 23 with discounts of up to 70%.

In London, tens of thousands of people flooded onto tubes and buses to visit the capital’s retail hotspots, as new laws on face masks came into force.

On the high street, worrying pictures showed huge queues as people crowded around entrances with no social distancing in sight.

On London’s Oxford Street, more than 400 people gathered around the entrance to Nike in scenes reminiscent of Christmas.

One eye witness said staff were advising shoppers to “keep their distance”, but people were just “pushing at the front”.

Crowds were also pictured outside Primark in Marble Arch, London, and Doncaster this morning – with some even camping overnight. In Brighton, people started arriving at 3am.

In Birmingham, staff at Primark have been hemmed in by queues since 6am. In Liverpool, one  branch was forced to open 45-minutes early due to overcrowding fears.

“The queue to Primark was at least an hour long. The staff had the situation very well organised. Shoppers seemed happy to wait that long. We weren’t, so will return later in the week,” one shopper in Newcastle told the Mirror.

It’s prompted fears of a second outbreak as coronavirus cases fall to a 11-week low in the UK, after claiming more than 41,000 lives.

One Twitter user wrote: “People are queueing on Oxford Street for loungewear while Beijing is now locked down to avoid a second wave.”

It comes after Boris Johnson said people would be able to “shop with confidence” from Monday, while Chancellor Rishi Sunak insisted it would be “safe” to do so.

However, business Secretary Alok Sharma has warned that enforcement action will be taken against shops who break safety guidance.

Are you out shopping or are you working in a store today? Get in touch at [email protected]

From Monday, high streets and shopping centres in England, including Debenhams, John Lewis, Zara and House of Fraser, will be allowed to reopen again following the coronavirus shutdown.

However, in order to operate, businesses must follow the Government’s Covid-ready guidelines, and pass a coronavirus risk assessment.

Under the rules, fitting rooms will be closed, large families will be banned and customers will be urged to pay using a cashless method where possible.

One-way systems and barriers will also be put in place, in measures that will replicate how supermarkets have operated throughout the crisis.

Shoppers will be asked to sanitise their hands upon entry in many cases – and customers will only be allowed to touch items they intend to buy.

The new rules and measures will be clearly set out with posters, signs and visual aids on windows and doors before customers enter branches.

Only one person per household will be allowed in at a time, unless you are a parent with a young child.

And every shop with five employees or more will have to complete a written risk assessment – detailing how it plans to keep staff and customers safe.

Screens and barriers will be installed and all retail stores will have ‘drop off areas’, where goods can be transferred over to colleagues.

Anything that has been tried on will also have to be stored away from sale for 72 hours or thoroughly cleaned before being returned to the shop floor.

From Monday, customers will be asked to pay with contactless where possible – such as via a smartphone or contactless payment card.

While queuing and browsing, you’ll also have to observe the two metre gap and follow one-way arrows in stores. Retailers such as John Lewis say customers will have to stand eight steps apart on escalators.

Outside stores, you’ll have to queue in a line – guidance on this will be displayed on store windows. You won’t be able to queue via a car park.

Where possible, shop on your own or with just one other member from your household. Kids won’t be turned away, but it’s advised that you only shop with children where absolutely necessary.

If you’re heading out by car, remember some parking areas will have limited spaces to manage congestion. Check with your local authority for extra parking and bike racks as the Government says you should avoid public transport where you can.

When shopping, be aware that fitting rooms will be closed and testers will be unavailable. If you return an item, it will be placed on hold for 72 hours. While browsing, aim to only touch items you intend to buy.

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