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Coronavirus (COVID-19): updates and advice

Stay local, shop local

Keeping safe while shopping - frequently asked questions

Stay local, shop local

Most of Dorset’s shops have now re-opened for business, and they need your support.

Most shops and high streets across the county were closed when the government introduced lockdown measures in order to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Now that restrictions have been relaxed, shoppers are able to return to their local high streets. This is vital for shop owners, who need Dorset residents to help get their businesses back on their feet by shopping locally.

But as the threat of the virus has not passed yet, Dorset Council, together with town and parish councils, have been working with local businesses and organisations to ensure that people can keep safe while they’re out and about.

Are the town centres open?

Yes. Non-essential retail was re-opened on 15 June.

Which businesses are open?

Shops that are able to reopen include those that sell clothes, shoes, toys, furniture, books and electronics. Tailors and photography studios may open if it is safe to do so as well.

Businesses will only be able to open if they are confident about managing the risks and are able to follow the COVID-19 secure guidelines.

Cafes, restaurants, pubs and bars will be able to re-open from 4 July as long as social distancing measures can be observed.

What are you doing to keep people safe?

Dorset Council has been working with town and parish councils across the county. Work is underway and will continue over the coming weeks to implement various measures on the high street designed to help shoppers stay safe: -

  • stencilled markings and signs around busy areas, including bus stops, helping people to observe social-distancing
  • widening footways and cycleways by temporarily closing parking bays and cutting back vegetation
  • scheduled partial road closures to provide more space for pedestrians, especially around food huts and vans
  • creating additional cycle parking and new cycle routes
  • in the longer-term, pedestrianising busy areas with large numbers of cafes, restaurants, pubs and bars

We've worked with businesses across the area to offer support, guidance and resources on how to keep customers safe.

Will car parks be open?

We recommend cycling or walking to your high street whenever possible. However, we have re-opened council-run car-parks and normal charges are in operation.

Please use your mobile phone to pay for parking where you can, by calling/texting or using the Just Park app. If you need to use a ticket machine, keep your distance from others when waiting to pay.

You should not travel with someone from outside your household, or your support bubble, unless you can practise social distancing, for example by cycling.

What toilets will be open? Where can we wash our hands?

Many public toilets will be open, and these have full hand-washing facilities available. Some toilets will remain closed while we make changes to ensure they are safe for public use.

Please wash your hands regularly, before you leave home and when you get back. If you know you are likely to use a public toilet, make sure to carry your own hand sanitiser and gels.

How will shops manage their queues outside?

Some shops will have staff members greet customers to explain the social distancing measures inside, and manage how many customers can come in. Businesses will also manage any queue that forms and stop people from joining if their space limit is reached.

Can I travel by bus?

If you need to travel on public transport, avoid peak times. Please remember, it is currently compulsory to wear a face covering while travelling on public transport.

Please remember to maintain social distancing while waiting for a bus. Many bus stops will have stencilled markings and signs helping people to observe social-distancing. We also recommend using contactless payment whenever possible.

Will you monitor town centres and shopping areas and enforce social distancing?

We have no legal powers to enforce social distancing, as this is guidance not law. The emphasis is on individuals to follow the guidance for the safety of themselves and others.

However, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have responsibility for the outside area of businesses (public highways and open spaces not connected with a commercial premises such as pubs/cafes etc.), while on private property (inside, or outside but still on business premises, like a pub garden) we can enforce under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

We’re working with town and parish councils to monitor how well people are able to socially distance, with our staff and partner organisations reporting back on any issues or hotspots.

Will shops and businesses be following the latest government guidance?

All businesses that plan to open, including those that are already open, must follow and stick to COVID-19 secure guidelines. Businesses will only be able to open once they have completed a risk assessment, consulting with trade unions or directly with their workers. 

Will there be any events or street entertainment?

All events on council owned land have been cancelled until the end of August. This includes events that were planned on our high streets, quays, parks, gardens and beaches.

Street entertainment and busking are discouraged where it creates a risk of large crowds gathering. Promotions from businesses should not extend outside the building.

Will emergency vehicles be able to get into key areas?

All measures being implemented have been shared with the emergency services. Full access will be maintained for their vehicles, so they are able to respond to any emergency as they would normally do. 

Will A-boards be allowed?

We’re working with town and parish councils to assess where A-boards, flags and other promotional signs are creating a blockage or a pinch point. In some areas, businesses have already been asked not to place these items out.

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