England's shops back in business as lockdown eased



Emmanuel Macron has lifted most of France’s remaining coronavirus lockdown restrictions and said he would focus on rebuilding the crisis-stricken economy in the last two years of his presidency.  In a televised speech to the nation from the Elysée Palace — his fourth such address on the Covid-19 pandemic since March — Mr Macron said all French schools would fully reopen for compulsory attendance under normal rules from June 22.  Most other restrictions would end from Monday, June 15, except in the overseas territories of Mayotte and French Guiana. Limits on large gatherings will remain. The easing means the full reopening of Paris bars and restaurants that have been restricted to serving customers on outdoor terraces. Travel within Europe will also begin to return to normal on Monday, with long-distance international travel restarting on July 1.  I have the deeply held conviction that the organization of the state and of our actions must change profoundly. Not everything can be decided so often in Paris Emmanuel Macron “From tomorrow, we will be able to turn the page on the crisis that we have lived through,” Mr Macron said. “This does not mean that the virus has completely disappeared or that we can lower our guard . . . but like you I am happy about this victory over the virus.”  More than 29,000 people have died from Covid-19 in France since March 1, but the number of new admissions to hospitals fell sharply after two months of confinement from mid-March to mid-May, and fatalities from the virus have recently dropped to about 25 per day. Mr Macron said the country had no reason to be ashamed of its record in tackling the pandemic. “Tens of thousands of lives have been saved by our decisions, our actions.”  Mr Macron said the priority now was to relaunch the economy — which is expected to shrink by more than 10 per cent this year — to make it “strong, environmental, sovereign and with solidarity”.  The state, he said, had mobilized €500bn in economic support — a figure that includes €300bn of loan guarantees to keep businesses afloat. That would increase public sector debt, he said, while ruling out tax increases to finance the extra spending.  Recommended Travel Magic Monday: Europe reopens to tourists “The only response is to build a sustainable and stronger economic model, to work and produce more so as not to depend on others. And we must do all this even as the country faces bankruptcies and multiple lay-offs as a result of the shutdown of the global economy.” Mr Macron, who previously promised to “reinvent” himself in the light of the coronavirus crisis, said he would lay out more detailed plans in July for the rest of his presidency after consulting widely.  But he made clear that he would seek to decentralize government by “rebalancing powers and responsibilities”. He said: “I have the deeply held conviction that the organization of the state and of our actions must change profoundly. Not everything can be decided so often in Paris.”  Mr Macron also alluded to recent protests in Paris triggered by the killing of George Floyd at the hands of the police in Minnesota. He said his government would stand firm against racism and anti-Semitism, but he also expressed support for the French police and said France would not knock down its statues or erase its history.
Europe is taking a big step toward new normality as many countries open borders to fellow Europeans after three months of coronavirus lockdowns — but even though Europeans love their summer vacations, it’s not clear how many are ready to travel again.
Tourists from the U.S., Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East will just have to wait for now. Europe is expected to start opening up to some visitors from elsewhere next month, but details remain unclear.
The European Union home affairs commissioner, Ylva Johansson, told member nations last week that they “should open up as soon as possible” and suggested Monday was a good date.
Many countries are doing just that, allowing travel from the EU, Britain, and the rest of Europe’s usually passport-free Schengen travel area, which includes non-EU countries like Switzerland.
Europe’s reopening won’t be a repeat of the chaotic free-for-all in March when panicked, uncoordinated border closures caused traffic jams that stretched for miles. Still, it’s a complicated, shifting patchwork of different rules. And although tourist regions are desperately counting on them, a lot of Europeans may decide to stay close to home this summer.
That’s something tourism-dependent Mediterranean countries such as Greece are keen to avoid. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis acknowledged Saturday that “a lot will depend on whether people feel comfortable to travel and whether we can project Greece as a safe destination.”
Greece has emphasized the handling of its outbreak, which saw only 183 deaths. Overall, Europe has seen more than 182,000 virus-linked deaths this year, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University that also shows Europe has had 2.04 million of the world’s 7.8 million infections.
Hard-hit Spain, which on Sunday moved forward it's opening to European travelers by 10 days to June 21, is allowing thousands of Germans to fly to its the Balearic Islands for a trial run starting Monday — waiving its 14-day quarantine for the group.
“This pilot program will help us learn a lot for what lies ahead in the coming months,” Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said. “We want our country, which is already known as a world-class tourist destination, to be recognized as also a secure destination.”
Border checks in some places have already wound down. Italy opened its borders on June 3 and towns on the German-Polish border celebrated early Saturday as Poland opened the gates. At midnight, the mayors of Goerlitz, Germany, and Zgorzelec, Poland cut through chains on a makeshift fence that had divided the towns.
Germany, like France and others, is lifting remaining border checks on Monday and scrapping a requirement that arrivals must prove they have a good reason to enter. It also is easing a worldwide warning against nonessential travel to exempt European countries – except, probably, Finland, Norway and Spain, where travel restrictions remain, and Sweden, where the level of new coronavirus infections is deemed too high.
Many German regions have reimposed a quarantine requirement for arrivals from Sweden, whose virus strategy avoided a lockdown but produced a relatively high death rate.
Czech authorities will require arrivals from Sweden to show a negative COVID-19 test or to self-quarantine – along with travelers from Portugal and Poland’s Silesia region.
Austria is opening up Tuesday to European neighbors except for Spain, Portugal, Sweden, and Britain — and keeping a travel warning for Italy’s worst-hit region of Lombardy. France is asking people from Britain to self-quarantine for two weeks.
Britain recently introduced a 14-day quarantine requirement for most arrivals, to the horror of its tourism and aviation industries, which say the move will hit visits to Britain hard this summer.
Denmark is opening up only for tourists from Germany, Norway, and Iceland — and only if they can prove that they’re staying for at least six nights. Norway also is keeping shut its long border with Sweden.
“I realize this is a big disappointment. But the restrictions are based on objective criteria that are the same for everyone,” Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said. “If we open too quickly, the infection can get out of control.”
With flights only gradually picking up, nervousness about new outbreaks abroad, uncertainty about social distancing at tourist venues, and many people facing unemployment or pay cuts, this may be a good summer for domestic tourism.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz are both planning to vacation in their homelands this year.
“The recommendation is still, if you want to be really safe, a vacation in Austria,” Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg told ORF television, recalling the scramble in March to bring home thousands of tourists as borders slammed shut. “In Austria, you know that you don’t have to cross a border if you want to get home, and you know the infrastructure and the health system well.”
The German government, which helped fly 240,000 people home as the pandemic grew exponentially, also has no desire to repeat that experience.
“My appeal to all those who travel: Enjoy your summer vacation — but enjoy it with caution and responsibility,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said. “In the summer holidays, we want to make it as difficult as possible for the virus to spread again in Europe.”
After 83 days of coronavirus lockdown, non-essential stores in England reopen their doors on Monday, hoping to get the tills ringing again and start a long road to recovery.
A woman walks past a banner, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at Oxford Circus in London, Britain June 14, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
The stores have been closed since March 23 when Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed a lockdown to stem the spread of the virus. While outdoor markets and car showrooms reopened on June 1, Monday will be the big return to business for retailers.
It only applies to England, with stores in Scotland and Wales waiting for guidance from their devolved administrations on when they can resume trading. Non-essential stores in Northern Ireland reopened on Friday.
Getting shoppers spending again is key to Britain’s recovery after official data on Friday showed the economy shrank by a quarter over March and April.
The British Retail Consortium reckons the lockdown has cost non-food stores 1.8 billion pounds ($2.3 billion) a week in lost revenues.
Stores will look very different from before the lockdown as they will have to observe hygiene and social distancing regulations. Shoppers face queues outside, restricted numbers inside, and limitations on trying products.
Some chains are reopening all their English stores, while others are taking a phased approach.
Fashion chain Primark (ABF.L), which with no online offer has not taken a penny in Britain during the lockdown, plans to open all its 153 stores in England.
Marks & Spencer (MKS.L), which has traded online and kept its food halls open, will reopen the majority of its clothing and homewares selling space.
Rival Next (NXT.L) is reopening just 25 stores, while department store chain John Lewis is reopening just two. Electricals retailer Dixons Carphone (DC.L) will open 153 Currys PC World stores.
Researcher Springboard said the number of shoppers in early June indicated “a huge amount” of pent-up demand among consumers for shopping in stores.
However, industry executives are cautious.
“The reopening of the stores is not ‘now COVID-19 is over’ ... For a lot of people there’s still some reticence to go out,” said John Bason, finance chief of Primark owner Associated British Foods.
Larry Kudlow, the White House economic adviser, said the administration opposed extending federal unemployment payments beyond July because the measure created to respond to Covid-19 was a “disincentive” to work. “The $600 . . . is in effect a disincentive. We’re paying people not to work. It's better than their salaries,” Mr Kudlow told CNN on Sunday. “That might have worked for the first couple of months [but] it will end in late July.” Congress passed a $2.2tn package in March that provided $600 a week for jobless Americans, but the payments end in July. The Democratic-controlled House passed a $3tn stimulus that would extend the measure through the end of the year, but the Republican-controlled Senate has refused to entertain the bill, arguing that the economy is recovering. Mr Kudlow said Donald Trump, president, was considering “some kind of bonus for returning to work” but that it would not be as large as the $600 cheques. The federal benefits were intended to help unemployed Americans shore up their finances beyond the standard jobless benefits provided by states. The federal unemployment payments have helped millions of Americans who have been forced out of work as businesses have closed because of lockdowns. We're paying people not to work. It's better than their salaries Larry Kudlow, White House economic adviser While the US economy added an unexpected 2.5m jobs in May — lowering the unemployment rate to 13.3 per cent — 21m Americans remain out of work, according to the latest report from the US labor department. Mr Kudlow said the administration was optimistic that the economy was recovering because the number of new unemployment claims had fallen for the past 10 weeks. “We are reopening, and businesses are coming back. And, therefore, the jobs are coming back,” he told CNN. The debate over how much Congress should provide in any package has become a source of controversy as Democrats and Republicans prepare for November’s presidential and congressional elections. While Republicans argue that the nascent recovery underscores the need for less stimulus, Democrats say the number of unemployed Americans warrants another big package until the economy has largely recovered. Peter Navarro, a White House official, on Saturday said Mr Trump would back a $2tn stimulus package to return manufacturing jobs to the US. Kevin Hassett, another White House economic adviser, this week said the odds of Mr Trump supporting another package were very high. Larry Kudlow: “We're paying people not to work. It's better than their salaries” © REUTERS Since the start of the pandemic, Congress has provided more than $3tn in stimulus funding, including $660bn for small businesses to help them pay their staff and remain open during the crisis. While Mr Kudlow is seen as an economic cheerleader, Jay Powell, the Federal Reserve chairman, this week signaled that the central bank was “not even thinking about thinking about raising rates” because of concerns that unemployment levels would take a long time to return to the low levels recorded before the pandemic struck. The Fed expects the US economy to contract 6.5 per cent this year as the jobless rate declined to 9.3 per cent. The debate about how quickly the economy will recover comes as many states are grappling with a rise in Covid-19 cases as they ease lockdowns. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this week said the US was “not out of the woods”. His warning came as states in the south and west which were spared the early brunt of the disease we're seeing daily increases. Covid-19 cases spike in several US states | DC Lockdown Diary The number of US coronavirus cases increased by more than 25,000 over the weekend, with several southern states reporting the sharpest rises as they reopened for business. In Texas, the number of new cases climbed by 2,331 to more than 86,000, according to the Covid Tracking Project. New cases also surged in Alabama, South Carolina, and Florida, where a jump of 2,581 cases on Saturday broke records for the third day in a row. Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis has loosened clampdowns on restaurants, bars, amusement parks, gyms, and retail stores while requiring social distancing and extra sanitizing. In St Petersburg, a beach town on Florida's Gulf of Mexico coast, three bars announced they will close after employees tested positive for Covid-19, the Tampa Bay Times reported. More than 2m people have tested positive for Covid-19 in the US, the most of any country, and more than 100,000 have died of the virus.  Mr Trump will hold a rally in Tulsa on Saturday, in a move that critics have assailed as risking the lives of his supporters. The indoor venue for what will be the president’s first rally in three months has a capacity of 19,000. The president has suggested that he does not want to see empty seats, raising concern about the ability to ensure social distancing at the event.