Boris Johnson told the retail sector to “get ready” as he announced that shops selling non-essential items will be allowed to reopen from 15 June.
Outdoor markets and car showrooms will be allowed to open earlier from June 1 as “it is easier to follow Covid secure guidelines in open spaces”, the prime minister said.
He also announced that new government guidelines would be issued and that officials would be able to “enforce compliance where that is required”.
Speaking at the daily Downing Street briefing yesterday, Johnson said: “I want to give the retail sector notice of our intention to reopen shops so they too can get ready.
“So I can announce that it is our intention to allow outdoor markets to reopen from June 1, subject all premises made Covid secure, as well as car showrooms, which often have significant outdoor space and where it is generally easier to apply social distancing.”
He continued: “Then from June 15, we intend to allow all other non-essential retail, ranging from department stores to small independent shops to reopen.
“Again, this change will be contingent upon progress against the five tests and will only be permitted for those retail premises which are Covid secure.”
The announcement came as the government attempts to gradually ease strict lockdown measures which have been in place since March.
As part of plans to gradually reopen shops, new guidance would be issued “detailing the measures they should take to meet the necessary social distancing and hygiene standards," Johnson confirmed.
He also hinted that there would be sanctions for rule-breakers, stating that businesses “now have the time” to implement changes and that “there can be no doubt about what steps they should take”.
“While the vast majority of businesses will want to do everything possible to protect their staff and customers I should add that we will, of course, have the powers we need to enforce compliance where that is required,” the prime minister said.
“I want people to be confident that they can shop safely provided that they follow the social distancing rules for all premises.”
Yesterday, Johnson also confirmed that the plans to partially reopen schools would go ahead from 1 June.
The decision has attracted a backlash from unions and teaching organisations, with some councils refusing to open schools under their jurisdiction.