First details of the government’s programme to allow businesses to reopen have begun to emerge - with little comfort for estate agents
A 51-page document released this afternoon outlines an “indicative roadmap” which says that potentially from June 1, some schools and businesses - including what it calls “non-essential shops” - will reopen.
At this stage it isn’t clear whether “non-essential shops” would include agents’ offices - but this is the category in the document closest to agents’ activities.
The only retail services explictly excluded from this section are hairdressers and hospitality businesses such as pubs and restaurants, so agents' branches may well be regarded as being in the remit of "non-essential."
There are no explicit comments made about how viewings or similar activities would be handled, although there are hints in some more general points.
For example, throughout the document 'the science' is quoted as suggesting the virus spreads much more easily inside than in the open air, so emphasis is given to allowing more outdoor activities.
"As more people return to work, there will be more movement outside people's immediate household" the guidance says. "This increased mobility means the government is now advising that people should aim to wear a face covering in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not always possible and they come into contact with others that they do not normally meet, for example on public transport or in some shops."
As well as advising the public to wear face coverings, employers are being urged to redesign workplaces to minimise the number of individuals people come into contact with, including increasing ventilation.
This approach is described as “making contact safer by redesigning public and work spaces, and those with symptoms self-isolating”.
From July 4 remaining businesses - such as hairdressers, and social spaces such as cinemas and pubs - will be allowed to reopen.
Today’s government document says all dates could be delayed if insufficient progress is made in tackling the virus and restrictions could be reintroduced.
The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills says it will tomorrow release further details on how businesses can execute social distancing during coming weeks and months.
Here's what today's document says about some business openings:
In the first instance, employers should make every effort to support working from home, including by providing suitable IT and equipment as they have been already. This will apply to many different types of businesses, particularly those who typically would have worked in offices or online.
Where work can only be done in the workplace, we have set out tailored guidelines for employers to help protect their workforce and customers from coronavirus while still continuing to trade or getting their business back up and running. We will be publishing even more detailed COVID-19 secure guidelines in the coming days, which has been developed in consultation with businesses and trades unions.
These ‘back to work’ guidelines apply to those in essential retail like:
- those in construction and manufacturing
- those working in labs and research facilities
- those administering takeaways and deliveries at restaurants and cafes
- tradesmen, cleaners and others who work in people’s homes
- those who are facilitating trade or transport goods
- and so on
Non-essential retail, restaurants, pubs, bars, gyms and leisure centres will remain closed. They will reopen in a phased manner provided it is safe to do so.
Meanwhile - slightly bizarrely perhaps - many more specific details have emerged from France as to how agents in that country will be tackling the crisis when it comes to viewings. This is precisely the kind of detail wanted from government by agents in the UK.
The Maison et Manoirs agency has revealed how its agents will, from today, handle viewings to properties this way:
“Prior to a visit we will supply the prospective buyer with all the necessary property information by email. No paper documents will be transmitted during the visit.
“The visit will be made by the prospective buyer(s) alone - no third parties will be able to accompany the visit, so please make arrangements for other friends and family in advance.
“Only people with an appointment may visit, at the time indicated, and only when equipped with a man and hydro-alcoholic gel. Our agents will be obliged to refuse the visit if you call to comply.
“The buyer will travel to the property in their own car.
“To make the visit easier all doors and windows will be open where possible to avoid the necessity of touching handles. Please also avoid touching anything else in the house. Ask the agent if you have any queries or wish to see how something works.”