The prime minister says that some shops may be able to reopen as early as next month as part of a phased easing of lockdown measures.

Boris Johnson laid out the framework of a prospective timeline to ease lockdown restrictions on Sunday evening, which included the reopening of some shops and schools in June.

Johnson stressed, however, that this proposed schedule depended on the rate of infection of coronavirus – which he referred to as the R – staying below current levels.

“In step two – at the earliest by June 1, after half-term – we believe we may be in a position to begin the phased reopening of shops and to get primary pupils back into schools, in stages, beginning with reception, year one and year six,” he said.

Johnson said the government would be providing more “detailed guidance on how to make it work in schools and shops and on transport” this week.

Since the government mandated store closures to stem the spread of coronavirus in March, all retailers deemed ‘non-essential’ have only been able to trade through their respective online operations, with businesses deemed essential trading with enforced social distancing and caps on the number of shoppers permitted inside at once.

Johnson said any changes to the current system would be made on the condition of a sustained fall in the number of coronavirus-related deaths.

British Retail Consortium (BRC) chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “We share the view of the prime minister that safety is what counts when determining when shops can reopen. Already retailers around the country are working on plans for reopening safely and with all necessary social distancing measures in place.

“The BRC and Usdaw have supported this process with our own social distancing guidance, learning from the experiences of thousands of supermarkets and other essential retailers. It is vital that the reopening of stores is based on who can do so safely, as opposed to trying to draw lines in terms of different sizes or types of shop.

“Further clarity is needed in the coming days and we look forward to more details from the government. We need a plan for shopping as well as shops – this means a plan that allows safe navigation both to and through our retail centres – and we look forward to continuing to work closely with the government to support this process.”