Business minister Kwasi Kwarteng believes social distancing in the retail and hospitality sectors could remain in some capacity for the rest of the year.
Last month Boris Johnson announced almost all Covid-19 restrictions could be lifted by June 21, so long as the battle against the coronavirus continues to go to plan.
Despite the planned ease in June, with even nightclubs set to be allowed to open, Kwarteng believes some social distancing could be here for the duration of the year.
In an interview with The Times he said: “When I speak to retailers and people in the hospitality industry they are quite ready to adapt their premises to social distancing. What they can’t stand is the idea of opening up and then plunging back into a lockdown. That’s what they really want to avoid.
“I think this year, there may well be still some social distancing. There’s also that whole thing of consumer behaviour. People will expect a certain degree of safeguards. We don’t know how people are going to react.”
A government review on social distancing will be published in June, but many establishments – particularly in the hospitality sector – are pushing for restrictions on social distancing to be eased as soon as possible.
Elsewhere, the business minister said some degree of flexible working was likely to remain in the long-term, and that the future of the high street looks residential.
“One of the things I’m very keen that we get our heads around is the whole future of the high street,” he told The Times.
“I think there will be some degree of residential. In Staines high street, for example, in 2010 I can’t think of any flats whereas now I see lots of places being turned into flats which were originally retail outlets.
“You’ll see a bit more residential coming back. They [people] will be living on the high street.”