Coronavirus: The companies trying to get back to work despite the lockdown

DIY chain B&Q has reopened about half of its UK stores – joining a number of companies trying to get back to work despite the lockdown.

B&Q had closed all its stores in March as restrictions designed to combat the spread of COVID-19 came into force, but after a trial period over the weekend has gradually resumed trading with 155 in operation by Wednesday.

Photo showed customers lining up outside the stores, but the retailer said social distancing measures were in place, with a strict limit on the number of customers inside at any one time.

B&Q said: “As an essential retailer, we’re committed to providing the best possible service to support customers’ home improvement needs at this difficult time, while keeping customers and colleagues safe.

“Having watched other essential retailers support social distancing in their stores, we are now following their best practice and are re-opening some stores with strict social distancing measures in place.”

B&Q said its measures were similar to those taken by supermarkets – which have remained open through the lockdown.

Other retailers without an “essential” designation still have their doors closed though many continue with online operations.

Fashion brand Next – which had stopped web sales following pressure from its warehouse workers – resumed a limited service last week.

Meanwhile car maker Jaguar Land Rover said on Thursday that it would gradually resume some production at its plants in Solihull and Wolverhampton from 18 May.

With vehicle sales beginning to recover in China and showrooms reopening there and in other parts of the world, it said it was adopting “robust” measures to “support a safe return to work”.

JLR, which is Britain’s biggest car maker, is also starting to return to production at plants in Austria and Slovakia.

It has not set a date for the reopening of two other big UK plants at Halewood and Castle Bromwich.

Rival car maker Aston Martin said it would resume operations at its St Athan site in South Wales from 5 May.

It will take “learning in terms of health and safety” into account before reopening its main car plant at Gaydon in Warwickshire at a later date.

Chief executive Andy Palmer is waiving 35% of his salary at the company – best known for making cars driven by secret agent James Bond in 007 films.

Elsewhere in the industry, 50 workers are returning to work this week at Nissan’s site in Sunderland – Britain’s biggest car plant – as it pilots new safety measures.

In the construction sector, house builder Taylor Wimpey plans to resume operations on most of its sites in England and Wales from 4 May.

It said it was using “detailed new site operating protocols developed in compliance with strict social distancing requirements”.

Chief executive Pete Redfern said: “We are now confident that we have clear plans and processes in place so we can safely start back on site in a phased way.”

House building rival Vistry – previously known as Bovis Homes – is restarting works at a number of sites from the start of next week.

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