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Retail outlets in shopping centres reopen

Retail outlets in shopping centres around the country are reopening for the first time since they were forced to close due to Covid-19 restrictions nearly three months ago.

However, the shopping centres and shops must adhere to guidelines around social distancing and hygiene, while also taking steps to ensure customers do not congregate in malls.

Under the original Government plan for reopening the economy, enclosed shopping centres were not supposed to reopen before 10 August.

But just over a week ago, the Government decided to speed up the reopening phases, including allowing retail outlets in shopping centres to reopen on 15 June, once measures were put in place to make centres safer.

The guidelines, published by the National Standards Authority of Ireland last week, include limiting the number of shoppers inside centres.

They also say that consideration should be given to limiting access for children and adjusting opening hours to lessen crowding at any one time.

The rules also state that visitors entering a shopping centre should be encouraged to wear face coverings and that appropriate signage be used to communicate this to customers.

Special access times should also be allocated for those at high risk from Covid-19 or those who have been cocooning, carers, frontline staff and people with disabilities, they suggest.

While customer parking spaces should also be limited to comply with physical distancing requirements, with shopping trolley access only being given to those going to a grocery store, they say.

The protocols also suggest that non-essential facilities, such as playgrounds, pray areas and play equipment, be either closed or controlled to ensure physical distancing can be maintained.

WiFi in public areas should be blocked to discourage non-essential use of the centre and consideration should be given to the removal of massage chairs, product carriers, decorations and seating areas, apart from those needed by people with disabilities.

The reopening will mean a welcome return to work for thousands more retail workers and will provide an additional boost to the economy.

However, restaurants based in shopping centres will still not be able to reopen for eat-in meals until 29 June, while at present hairdressers remain closed until 20 July, although that sector hopes the Government may yet allow it to open earlier.

The NSAI guidelines also say there should be an assigned area in shopping centres to isolate people with Covid-19 symptoms if they present to a manager, customer services desk or centre personnel.

They state that where possible, video surveillance should be used with a footfall counting system and direct contact with security personnel if available to monitor compliance with rules.

The Covid-19 centre management team should organise personnel to patrol the centre at all times to aid in managing physical distancing measures, the document says.

The implementation of strict physical distancing measures across all spaces are also outlined, and where that cannot be achieved, then engineering controls, such as physical barriers and clear plastic sneeze guards between workers, should be used.

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