Shops will be permitted to stay open until 10pm six days a week when they reopen their doors to customers following the Covid lockdown, the government has said.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick announced an extension of retail opening hours from Monday to Saturday, aimed at helping people shop safely.
It comes as the government minister said the UK’s vaccine programme would continue to be “world-leading” - despite a row with Europe over jab exports.
Non-essential retailers in England, which are set to reopen from 12 April at the earliest under Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown, will be able to open from 7am to 10pm.
It is hoped that the temporary measures will allow customers to avoid peak times and ease transport pressures.
Announcing the extension, Mr Jenrick said: “To support businesses to reopen and recover, I’ve extended measures to allow shops to stay open for longer.
“This is part of a package of support to help reopen our shops and high streets safely – backed by £56 million.
“This will provide a much-needed boost for many businesses – protecting jobs, reducing pressure on public transport and supporting people and communities to continue to visit their high streets safely and shop locally.”
The government has also announced it will extend flexible working hours on construction sites, and will allow food deliveries to supermarkets over more time periods.
Other measures also included keeping the flexibility for pubs and restaurants to put up marquees to help increase seating capacity in a Covid-secure way.
Government remains confident in jabs supply
On Friday, Mr Jenrick said all adults were still on track to receive a first dose of the Covid vaccine by the end of July.
He insisted that the government had absolute confidence in the UK jabs supply and told people who already had appointments that there was “no need to worry” amid tension with the EU on vaccine exports.
Speaking to Good Morning Britain Mr Jenrick said: “We are confident we have got the supplies that we need both to meet our mid-April target of vaccinating all the over-50s and those people with clinical vulnerabilities, and the bigger target, which is that every adult at least has had their first jab by the end of July.
“Of course, anyone who has an appointment for a jab, either their first one or second one, there is no need to worry – those appointments will be honoured.”
‘World-leading’ vaccine programme
Pressed on where UK vaccine doses would come from if Brussels did apply an export ban, he added: “We’ve chosen since the start not to discuss our supply chains. We think that’s the right decision.
“We’re getting our vaccines from multiple manufacturers, from all over the world with complex international supply chains – none of them are reliant on any one factory or any one country.
“What I can assure your viewers of is our absolute commitment and confidence that we will be able to deliver on the targets that the Prime Minister has set out, so there is no reason to worry – the vaccine programme will continue and it is going to continue to be a world-leading one.”
Asked whether the UK had exported any vaccines to the EU, Mr Jenrick told Sky News: “Vaccines are based on complex international supply chains.
“There are elements of the vaccines being produced in the UK, there are elements being produced in parts of the European Union and indeed all over the world – we are working with the Serum Institute, for example, in India.
“So it is critical for all countries that there is the free flow of medical products, including vaccines, across international borders, and it would be very damaging if countries started to pull up drawbridges and prevent vaccines, medicines or elements of them from crossing international borders, and the UK strongly opposes that.”