New documents released by SAGE, the Government’s scientific advisory group for emergencies, reveal the closure of non-essential stores has ‘very minimal impact on R values’. The home delivery expert ParcelHero says that this finding means no future restrictions, such as Tier 3 regional restrictions or a second national lockdown, should include the closure of most non-essential High Street stores.
ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks MILT, says: ‘SAGE has drawn up a table listing the impact of emergency restrictions on the R number, the rate at which Covid is multiplying. While some measures can have a significant impact – working from home could reduce R by 0.2 to 0.4 and closing all schools by 0.2 to 0.5 – SAGE found the closure of non- essential stores has only a “low impact” on reducing the rate of infection.
‘SAGE’s analysis reveals non-essential stores create only limited social interaction. It says the short duration of most visits, the ability to keep customers distanced in most settings and the use of face covering will mitigate the risks “well”.
‘The documents reveal that non-essential shops were included in previous lockdown measures because their closure: “Improves consistency of policies, particularly if other interaction is to be restricted in addition (e.g. seeing family members in their homes).”
‘To be clear, retail is worth £394bn to the national economy and employs 2.9 million people in the UK. The impact of the previous Covid closures of non-essential stores means that, by the end of the year, 20,622 stores will have closed and 235,704 jobs will be endangered.
‘Non-essential retail must never again be included in blunderbuss lockdown measures just for the sake of ‘consistency.’ By the end of last June, more bricks-and-mortar retailers had gone into administration than in the whole of 2019. Retail cannot afford a needless second lockdown.
‘The document also acknowledges that even the closure of businesses with close personal contact will have a ‘low impact’. It says: “Each event is likely to be high risk as it involves prolonged, close, face-to-face contact. However, use of these services is relatively infrequent, so the overall impact on R is more limited. Potential reduction in Rt of up to 0.05, though precise estimation very difficult.”
‘The list does state the closure of cafes and bars could have a moderate impact and would create a potential reduction in the R rate of 0.1 to 0.2. We acknowledge that this kind of retail does present different kinds of risks but, as SAGE’s document makes clear, other High Street non-essential stores do not present the same problems.
‘The document discusses an approach to keeping non-essential stores open that should have been considered back in March: “If kept open, the rationale for doing so should be communicated clearly in terms of the lower risk of transmission.” ParcelHero completely agrees this is a sensible approach and one that should have been taken right from the beginning of the first lockdown, to avoid the current collapse in town centre retail.
‘We believe indie retailers still have a chance of surviving the pandemic and prospering again, but that is only if they source home delivery services quickly and develop an integrated in-store and online sales strategy.”