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Phase One: What can you expect when you go to a hardware store next week?

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has confirmed that Ireland will enter Phase One of easing restrictions on Monday.

A B&Q worker in the Portrack Lane store in the UK
A B&Q worker in the Portrack Lane store in the UK
Image: Peter Reimann/B&Q

YESTERDAY EVENING, TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar announced that Ireland will enter Phase One of lifting Covid-19 restrictions on Monday, 18 May. 

At the start of the month, Varadkar announced a five-step plan – which can be read in full here – for lifting the measures put in place by the government to slow the spread of Covid-19.

On Thursday, the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) briefed Cabinet ministers about its advice on what restrictions should be in place from Monday 18 May. Cabinet accepted those recommendations yesterday afternoon. 

Varadkar confirmed yesterday afternoon that hardware stores, farmer’s markets and garden centres will be allowed to reopen on Monday.  

Homeware outlets will not reopen yet, despite being named on the government’s roadmap as shops that could re-open in Phase One. 

Asked about the distinction between homeware and hardware, Harris said that homeware wasn’t necessarily an urgent thing to re-open. 

“If you need to buy new curtains, it can wait a couple of weeks,” Harris said. 

Business Minister Heather Humphreys acknowledged that some hardware outlets sell homeware, but said that “if you’re predominantly a hardware shop you can stay open and sell the products”. 

Only stores that are providing homeware in a way that is “incidental” can re-open in Phase One.

“If you have a hardware shop and happen to have a small homeware section, you’re allowed to sell,” she said. 

So, what exactly will the reopening of hardware stores look like? What safety measures will be implemented in stores? 

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s Ryan Tubridy Show yesterday, Woodies CEO Declan Ronayne confirmed that its stores will reopen on Monday and provided an insight into the measures being rolled out to ensure the safety of both staff and customers. 

The primary focus will be managing the queues of people arriving at the store, Ronayne said.

Regarding the Bray store, there will be a one-way system in and out of the carpark. Ronayne didn’t clarify whether this would be the case with all the stores’ carparks. 

There will be barriers up outside the stores, so that queues can be managed properly with social distancing measures in place. 

“We will have all sorts of safety measures all over the store,” he said. 

All Woodies stores will have sanitisation stations at its entrances. 

“You’re not getting into our store without sanitising your hands. If you have gloves on we want you to take them off, sanitise your hands, sanitise your gloves if you don’t want to do that,” Ronayne said. 

Staff in the stores will be provided with face shields to wear. 

Ronayne also confirmed that the Woodies ‘click and collect’ online service will still be available. However, he said the number of click and collect orders that can be done per day will be limited, as it is anticipated the service will be busy. 

“I think people are going to descend on us because they really, really want something to do, to say ‘Look at what I’ve done, look at what I’ve achieved during this really difficult time’,” he said. 

B&Q has announced that stores are now open with social distancing measures in place (3) (1) Social distancing markings on the floor of a B&Q store in the UK Source: Peter Reimann/B&Q

B&Q Ireland has also confirmed that its eight stores will open on Monday. 

A limited number of customers will be allowed in the store at any one time and social distancing measures will be in place. 

Similar to Woodies, there will be sanitiser stations in place and two-metre queuing outside the store. 

There will directional arrows to guide customers through the store. 

B&Q has increased its contactless limit to €50 for purchases and it will also be accepting credit card payments. Cash payments will not be available. 

Only products that people can shop and takeaway in store on the day will be available to customers. Due to the bulky nature of some of the items available for take away on the day, B&Q is allowing shopping parties of two people so that they can self-serve larger items. 

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B&Q will give priority access to frontline health service workers, older people and those needing special assistance at all times. 

“Following the successful implementation of safety measures in our stores elsewhere, we are confident that our strict social distancing measures will help to keep customers and colleagues safe,” B&Q CEO Graham Bell said. 

In a statement yesterday evening, a spokesperson for Ikea said that “following the government’s announcement … our store and order and collection point remain closed for the time being”. 

“We will continue to plan for the safe reopening of our stores once we get the go-ahead from the authorities, and look forward to welcoming our customers in the not too distant future,” the spokesperson said. 

NPHET advice

In a letter from the NPHET to the government, the body said “it is important that retailers, as employers, work proactively, including with authorities and health authorities where neccessary, to limit the spread of disease within or connected with the workplace and to mitigate the effects of workplace outbreaks should such occur”. 

For workers in retail outlets, NPHET said “it is important that the do not come to work if they have symptoms, including flu-like symptoms, and workers who are contacts of a confirmed or suspected case should follow public health advice and not come to work until advised otherwise”.

“It is also important that retailers work with authorities and other stakeholders across the sector to share good practices to protect all in society from the risks of infection.”

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