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Shopping centres can reopen today but limits on children and defined routes may become 'new normal'

While high street stores opened their doors last week, shopping centres had to remain shut for another week.

Image: RollingNews.ie

SHOPPING CENTRES ACROSS the country are permitted to reopen from today but a range of measures is likely to be in place to help them conduct business during the Covid-19 pandemic.

These measures could include limited access for children and defined routes around a centre for shoppers to follow.

Phase Two of the government’s roadmap began last week with non-essential retail outlets allowed to open once more. While high street stores opened their doors, shopping centres had to remain shut for another week. 

Some centres did technically remain open to allow access to supermarkets and pharmacies but many shops inside remained closed. 

According to the government’s roadmap, other retail outlets in shopping centres can now reopen provided “measures are taken to ensure people do not congregate at benches, fountains or food courts”.  

The National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) last week published a Shopping Centre Recovery and Protection Guide which detailed these and other potential measures. 

Many of these measures relate to ensuring customers maintain social distancing by way of appropriate signage and moving along defined routes.

Other measures include; reviews of opening hours to lessen crowding; restricting numbers entering; limiting of customer parking spaces; ‘plastic sneeze guards’ at customer desks and ‘isolation areas’ should staff or customers display symptoms. 

The guidelines also make a number of other recommendations including requesting only one person or one household uses lifts at a given time. Consideration should also be given to “limiting access for children”.  

Food court areas should also ensure “clear physical distancing separation of tables for customer use” and “no more than four customers per table if a family/group unit”.

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Some of the country’s largest shopping centres have confirmed they are to reopen today, with the Hammerson group, which runs Dundrum Town Centre, the Ilac Centre and Swords Pavilions in Dublin, among those confirming they will open.

Hammerson’s director of operations in the UK and Ireland Howard Ebison said that they have been working since early March on a “new normal” for shopping centres. 

“In just a few months we have produced tailored, comprehensive plans for all our centres, covering everything from signage and floor graphics to cleaning processes, footfall monitoring and marketing,” he said at the end of last week

“We can monitor and control the flow of people throughout our centres, introduce one-way systems, direct and manage queues, and coordinate our plans with all the stores in each destination.”

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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