20/11/2020 - Permalink

Coronavirus: Businesses and the public must continue to follow business closure restrictions

Related topics: Coronavirus / Economic growth / Health / Public protection

Shropshire Council’s priority during the coronavirus pandemic is to protect the health and safety of the public and to save lives. To do this, everyone needs to Step Up for Shropshire.

During the current Lockdown it is critical that those businesses that are not permitted to open remain closed. Any failure to adhere to the restrictions will risk increasing the transmission of coronavirus and growth rate of cases of COVID-19, and this may lead to the current lockdown being extended or other more severe restrictions being brought into force during December 2020 and beyond.

Whilst there are certain exemptions for essential businesses, many businesses are required to close, including all non-essential retail. Full details of the closure restrictions can be found at https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/1200/contents and additional guidance is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/further-businesses-and-premises-to-close/closing-certain-businesses-and-venues-in-england.

It is crucial that all businesses and the public focus on the reasons for the restrictions.  They are in place to combat coronavirus, which is a serious threat to public health, by preventing, restricting and limiting contact between individuals in the community. The lockdown restrictions prevent people making unnecessary, non-essential journeys in order to minimise the transmission of the virus. To facilitate this, non-essential retail is required to close.

During the whole coronavirus crisis, council officers have adopted a proportionate and pragmatic approach to enforcing business closure restrictions and this will continue. We are, however, seeing a rise in the number of reports that non-essential retailers are remaining open, and others are attempting to circumvent the restrictions to justify opening.

We have specific concerns about showrooms that are open to the public for products used in the home such as bathrooms, kitchens, tiles and windows either remaining entirely open or offering appointments. We stress that these businesses must remain closed. This does not mean they cannot trade; they may continue to offer delivery and click-and-collect services, but the items must be pre-ordered and collected without the public entering the premises. People are permitted to leave home to collect or return orders from these businesses.

The sale of Christmas trees is also raising significant concerns. It is understood that there is an imminent change to the legislation to permit Christmas tree farms to open from Saturday 21 November; however, this is unlikely to extend permission for any retailer simply to start selling Christmas trees. Retailers are advised to consider carefully the detail of the amended legislation (once it is published), together with any supporting Government guidance, in order to determine whether it is legal for them to sell Christmas trees.

Frances Darling, Shropshire Council’s trading standards and licensing operations manager, said:

“We do understand that these are extremely challenging times and we want to reassure businesses that we will support them to comply with the restrictions; however, the current serious position means that many businesses are required to close, and we have a duty to enforce those restrictions to protect people’s lives.

“I urge all those businesses that must remain closed to do so, and to avoid trying to find ways to circumvent the requirements. For the restrictions to be effective in Shropshire, there is a significant need for robust ‘collective compliance’. To achieve this requires a desire by everyone, including businesses, to think seriously about how they act, behave and operate, and to consider how this helps to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“Unfortunately, we are seeing behaviours that are unhelpful and that undermine the purpose of the restrictions, where businesses are focussing their efforts on finding loopholes or attempting to ‘shoehorn’ themselves into an exemption, to avoid the restrictions that require them to close. It is essential that all businesses play their part in limiting interactions between people.

“I want to thank all those businesses that have closed and have followed the rules, and for those that are permitted to open, for their efforts to prevent the spread of coronavirus, and ask that they continue to take this responsibility seriously.”

Gwilym Butler, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for communities, place planning and regulatory services, said:-

“The protection of the health and safety of the public is our number one priority, but everyone has a responsibility.

“It is crucial that business premises that are not permitted to open do remain closed, and those that can trade do so only if they can ensure their premises are safe to protect staff and customers from the spread of coronavirus.

“The current lockdown restrictions apply, both indoors and outdoors, including in private homes/gardens, public spaces and in business premises, and there is a significant onus on individuals and businesses to comply with the restrictions.

“We must not lose sight of the fact that coronavirus is a highly infectious virus and it thrives on contact between people. If the restrictions are not followed, the risk to individuals and our NHS is extremely high. I cannot emphasise enough that to keep everyone safe, you must reduce the number of people you are in contact with and the amount of time that you spend together. Unfortunately, this also applies to our family and friends that we hold dear.”

Further advice can be sought, and COVID-19 concerns can be reported to Shropshire Council by email to advicecompliance@shropshire.gov.uk or telephone 0345 678 9067 and select option 3.