SHOPPERS have been warned to expect long queues at supermarkets this bank holiday weekend as larger stores still have to close on Easter Sundays, even during lockdown.
Under trading laws, shops in England and Wales (there are no restrictions in Scotland) that are over 280 square metres must close their doors on Easter Sunday and Christmas Day.
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Normally, they can open on Sundays but only for six consecutive hours between 10am and 6pm.
But the department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has confirmed these rules still stand despite the coronavirus crisis.
The Sun on Sunday has called on the government to relax Sunday trading laws.
The plea has been supported by MPs and supermarket bosses.
Shoppers can only leave their homes to get food, medicine, to go to work, or to exercise once a day.
But with plenty of people around the country having the Good Friday and Easter Monday bank holidays off work, it could mean more people flooding to supermarkets than usual.
Exemptions from Sunday trading laws
Shops exempt from the Sunday trading restrictions for large shops include:
- airport and railway station outlets
- service station outlets
- registered pharmacies selling only medicinal products and medical and surgical appliances
- farms selling mainly their own produce
- outlets wholly or mainly selling motor or bicycle supplies and accessories
- suppliers of goods to aircraft or sea-going vessels on arrival at, or departure from, a port, harbour or airport
- exhibition stands selling goods
The issue is exacerbated by some supermarkets closing early over the rest of the Easter weekend.
This is on top of many supermarkets already closing doors earlier than usual during lockdown so they have more time to replenish stripped shelves and clean stores.
Tesco, for example, started closing all of its 24-hour stores between 10pm and and 6am, while Asda shut its between 12am and 6am.
Many also have special opening hours for vulnerable and elderly shoppers, as well as for NHS workers, which also sees regular shoppers face more restrictions.
Iceland, for example, is allowing only NHS staff to shop for the final hour of trade, while Sainsbury's is reserving from 7.30am to 8am from Monday to Saturday for NHS workers.
This is on top of people already facing queues outside supermarkets due to new restrictions on the number of people who enter stores.
Sainsbury’s, Aldi and Tesco, for example, have "banned" couples as supermarkets enforce social distancing rules.
Long queues can also happen at tills as people need to ensure they keep at least 2meters away from each other.
Waitrose's head of customer service has warned shoppers these measures could "mean queues" over the Easter weekend.
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Berangere Michel, executive director of customer service, wrote in a letter to customers: "Most of our shops in England, Wales and the Channel Islands will be closed on Easter Sunday, and open for shorter hours on Good Friday and Easter Monday (Scottish shops will open as normal)."
He added: "We are continuing to limit the number of customers in our shops, and introducing further measures to ensure everyone keeps a safe distance once inside.
"Unfortunately, that will sometimes mean queues, but these do move quickly and many of our stores are quieter after 6pm."
The Sun has put this to Aldi, Asda, Lidl, Morrisons, Sainsbury's, and Tesco. We'll update this story if we get a response.
A BEIS spokesperson added: “The existing laws on Sunday trading still apply.
"However, we have announced we will temporarily relax competition law for the food sector to allow supermarkets to cooperate with each other to keep their shops staffed and shelves stocked.
“We continue to have regular conversations with the food sector and will keep measures under review.”
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