Sunday trading hours are soon likely to be relaxed in a bid to ease queuing and make it easier for people to follow social distancing guidelines during lockdown. Supermarket bosses have been urging the government to relax the Sunday Trading Act 1994, which dictates that shops larger than 3,000 must only serve customers between the hours of 10am and 6pm.
At the weekend, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that he was "looking at" the issue after a group of 40 MPs wrote to Business Secretary Alok Sharma, urging a reconsideration of the law.
The letter read: "We are all witnessing supermarkets and shops being overwhelmed. Social distancing isn’t being observed in queues and supermarket staff are also feeling the strain and do not always believe they can protect themselves with safe distancing. Even when supermarkets are offering slots for vulnerable and key workers, bottlenecks are seen inside and outside shops."
MP Nusrat Ghani lambasted the current rules on weekend shop openings as "absurd in this present climate". She added: "For many of our key workers, Sunday is the only time they aren’t on the front line and they should not be standing in long queues for their once-a-week shop."
Labour MP Peter Kyle added that "in the current crisis, these restrictions make even less sense than they did before," particularly as "places of worship can no longer hold any services" and thus "one of the few reasons people are allowed out is to get their shopping".
"It makes sense to lift these restrictions so people can do their essential shopping without being put at risk," he said.
Prime Minister Johnson added that there would be "loads of opportunities to do things differently to get the economy moving" once lockdown measures have been lifted.
Not everyone is happy with the laws being relaxed, however, with some religious leaders lodging objections on the grounds of protecting workers.
The Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, who acts as a Church of England representative in the House of Lords, told the Sunday Telegraph: "We have always wanted to protect workers’ mental well-being and it is clear having a day off in common with the rest of our communities is key to those protections. The opportunity for a day of rest for all workers to spend time with loved ones is a basic right.
"So, while the novel coronavirus means we must all think about innovative and flexible ways to protect our local economies, it must not be at the expense of workers."