Nearly half shuttered UK firms don’t know when they will reopen – ONS

LONDON (Reuters) – Nearly half of businesses in Britain which have temporarily suspended their operations because of the coronavirus lockdown are unsure when they will restart trading, a survey by the country’s official statistics office showed on Thursday.

A person walks past a closed shop in Newcastle, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Newcastle, Britain, May 27, 2020. REUTERS/Lee Smith

Britain’s government is gradually relaxing its restrictions on much of the economy. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this week that shops which he ordered to close in March can reopen next month.

About one in five businesses in Britain went into hibernation because of the lockdown and the Office for National Statistics survey found that 14% of them expected to resume business in the next two weeks.

A further 10% were eyeing a reopening in two to four weeks’ time and 31% expected to restart in more than four weeks’ time.

Forty-six percent said they were unsure when they would resume trading.

Sandwich and coffee shop chain Pret A Manger said on Thursday it would reopen a further 204 shops across Britain for takeaway and delivery on June 1.

But department store chain John Lewis said on Wednesday it might not reopen all its 50 stores.

The ONS survey showed another sign of how the shutdown in Britain is slowly easing.

It found 73% of people had remained at home or only left for work, exercise, essential shopping or medical needs between May 21 and May 24, down from 81% a week earlier.

People in England – but not in other parts of the United Kingdom – are now allowed to drive to the countryside or the beach, something banned under the first stage of the lockdown.

Reporting by William Schomberg, editing by David Milliken

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