Business and union chiefs welcome new Covid-19 guidance

The Scottish Government has begun publishing guidance for different parts of the economy on how to reopen safely.

Shopping: Ministers at Holyrood began publishing guidance for different sectors of the economy. Pixabay
Shopping: Ministers at Holyrood began publishing guidance for different sectors of the economy.

New guidance that could help parts of Scotland’s economy return to to work amid Covid-19 have been welcomed by business leaders and union chiefs.

Ministers at Holyrood began publishing guidance for different sectors of the economy, setting out how they can start to operate again more safely.

The first pieces of guidance, for the manufacturing and retail sectors, have just been published.

The one for retail sets out measures such as stores using tape or paint to mark two-metre distances on the floor, to help shoppers comply with physical distancing and how shops should limit the number of customers inside at any given time.

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For manufacturing , the guidance says the “minimus” expected by ministers is for “a risk-based approach to be followed to protect health and safety of employees”.

Ministers are also clear the guidance “does not signal an immediate change in Scotland’s lockdown policy” but instead sets out what steps businesses need to take when they are given the green light to reopen.

With some non-essential stores included in the second phase of easing for lockdown restrictions, David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said “shopkeepers are working hard to ready themselves to reopen safely, drawing on the lessons learned by essential shops of all sizes and formats during the past nine weeks and investing significantly in physical distancing and hygiene measures to protect customers and staff”.

He added: “This new official guidance and accompanying checklist will prove useful as retailers refine their plans and implement the necessary adaptations.

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“It should also help customers understand the changes they will see to their usual shopping routine and what is expected of them too. Shoppers should be prepared for different store layouts, one-way aisles, screens and queuing, similar to that seen in pharmacies and other essential retailers.”

He added: “Over and above this guidance for shops, what is needed now is a plan for shopping. That will need to provide practical steps and advice so customers can confidently understand how to safely travel to and navigate high streets and town centres.

“Government should involve local authorities and business improvement districts in this work so local plans can be developed to help set these places on the road to economic recovery.”

Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said the guidance for retailers and manufacturing was “welcome”, stressing that “operating safely and safeguarding the health of our employees, customers and supply chains is in the best interests of all of us”.

She said: “We will now look at this detail to understand what businesses in these sectors need to do practically in order to begin to prepare for reopening.

“We will be working with the Scottish Government and companies across Scotland to adapt, adopt and implement these guidelines.”

But she added it would be “helpful to see timelines” for reopening “so that businesses and our employees have a common goal in sight.”

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Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) general secretary designate Roz Foyer said: “We now have in place some good guidance for manufacturing and retail which has been developed in full consultation with unions.

“The guidance makes clear the steps that are required of employers in creating special risk assessments with unions and fully taking into account our key red lines including contact tracing and travel to work issues.

“Employers in all sectors need to note that the red light for a return to work is still on until contact tracing and effective transport guidance is in place along with full risk assessments.”