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Smaller shops may be allowed to open next week

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OWNERS of smaller shops which are still being prevented from reopening after the easing of lockdown are hoping to resume trading next week.

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Economic Development Minister Lyndon Farnham told the States Assembly that he recognised concerns about retailers with smaller premises being unfairly treated, and hoped they could reopen soon.

As part of the move to Level Three of the government’s exit strategy at the start of this week, shops of more than 700 square metres were allowed to reopen, as long as distancing and other protective measures were in place. Cafés and restaurants are also now allowed to open their al-fresco areas for food service only. But many small shops are still prevented from trading.

Deputy Russell Labey asked Senator Farnham about the issue, saying that he struggled with the rationale of the move.

‘Smaller shops which may only admit one or two customers at a time are by far the safest,’ he said. ‘It seems to be that the big boys are being given an advantage.’

The minister said he agreed with Deputy Labey and admitted there had been some ‘very difficult conversations’ about the matter. ‘We have followed sound medical advice to reopen shops in stages so that there isn’t a risk of town being overwhelmed,’ he said. ‘Our intention is that smaller shops can open as soon as possible, hopefully next week, as we continue to move forward step by step in a safe way.’

Some retailers are concerned that a number of smaller shops have jumped the gun and already opened.

‘The way it was advertised, some people have seen the headlines and not taken in the detail,’ said one St Helier retailer, adding that his small shop was ready to reopen but would not do so until given clearance. A spokesman for States police said shops trading illegally would be a matter for Environmental Health or the Health and Safety Inspectorate. Neither body responded to a request for clarification from the JEP.

Senator Farnham was also asked about personal protective equipment for retail staff by Deputy Kirsten Morel.

The minister said he was seeking to consolidate the purchase of large volumes of PPE via central government supply lines in order to make equipment available.

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