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- Shopping malls will be allowed to open from May 4 - PM Mateusz Morawiecki announced during a press conference on April 29 - They will be subject to the same restrictions as grocery stores - one person allowed per 15 sq m. We have developed these solutions together with our interlocutors from the shopping mall sector.

The limit applies separately to the store and to the common area in the malls. What does it mean in practice for a person who goes shopping?

In a special report prepared for the Polish Council of Shopping Centers, Andrzej Jarosz, GeoAnalytics Team Manager from PwC, calculates that the limit of 15 sq m of retail space per customer gives on average about four meters of distance between people. The medium-sized shopping mall (50,000 sq m) was able to accomodate 6,000 customers at once before the epidemics. 

"The required limit means that this capacity will fall to approximately 3,000 people. Once the malls open for customers, during the first weeks this limit may mean that malls will have to police how many people enter during the weekends and in the afternoons on business days."

In short, we can expect queues of people trying to enter the malls and instead waiting outside for their turn.

Of course, all customers will have to wear masks. The centers are wondering how to eliminate larger groups of people in passageways between shops.

Recreation and restaurant spaces will be closed, as proposed by the shopping malls themselves. This means that the malls will only open stores, and not e.g. fitness clubs, cinemas, escape rooms or playgrounds for children. This will also apply to places where meals are served on site (the so-called food court).

Malls are mostly interested in opening clothing and shoe stores - they account for over half of the area of ??such facilities.

Why are malls reopening so quickly?

It is all about the economy. One month of closing the malls means that sales amounting to approximately PLN 10.5 billion will not be made. The accelerated opening of the centers is to protect chainstores against bankruptcies.

Morawiecki’s declaration was enthusiastically received by the stock market. The shares of the CCC shoe chain went up immediately by more than 7 percent and at some point were up by 21 percent compared to yesterday. Meanwhile, the share price of LPP clothing giant (Cropp, Sinsay, House, Mohito, Reserved) went up by more than 5 percent at first, and later reached 12 percent day-to

What happens when the centers open?

In a nationwide survey carried out by the Inquiry agency on April 14-15, just after Prime Minister Morawiecki announced for the first time a future plan to open the malls, more than half of respondents (56 percent) declared that they intended to visit a shopping center after they re-open. Nearly one in every three Pole intends to do this within the first week of the reopening.

Przemysław Dwojak from GfK estimates in the abovementioned report that due to the reduction of expenses caused by mass isolation and closing of most stores, as well as the forecasted unemployment, expenses of Poles in retail trade may fall by between 8.3 percent and 23.7 percent depending on the municipality (declines will be smaller in larger cities).

According to GfK, in the most optimistic scenario, sales will return to their pre-epidemic levels by December this year. In the most pessimistic scenario - which includes another two-month quarantine in the fall - they will only reach this level in December of 2021.

When will hairdresser salons and cinemas reopen?

Other large-format stores can also re-open from May 4. - We are repealing the current trade ban on large-scale construction stores on weekends - announced the government.

What's next?

- The next stages will be announced on a biweekly basis - said Morawiecki.

The epidemiological effects of each decision can only be traced in infection statistics after 10 days. The Prime Minister warned at the conference that the government would back off in the event of a worsening situation.

What about restaurants, cinemas etc.?

- We are thinking about allowing the restaurants to reopen only during the next stages - answered Morawiecki.

PM then continued after a brief hesitation:

- The opening of cinemas and theaters is planned for the next stages of lifting the restrictions. We do not want to give any exact dates, because the rate of the spread of coronavirus could easily alter our plans - explained the Prime Minister.

Hairdressers and beauty salons will be able to open their businesses in the third stage.

- Another minister of health turns out to be an enemy of hairdressers - Cezary Kaźmierczak, president of the Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers, commented on Twitter. He is dissatisfied that the beauty branch will have to wait for re-opening at least until mid-May, if not longer.

The fourth stage is to enable the operation of gyms and fitness clubs as well as solariums and massage rooms.

Pandemic experts say that large scale loosening of restrictions can safely be started once basic reproduction rate of the virus is below 1. This means that one patient statistically infects fewer than one person.

The current basic reproduction rate for coronavirus in Poland is 1.13 - still above this limit.

In Germany, it has just risen to 1.0 from 0.9. The German government is very concerned by this development. 

Austria is in a much better situation. The rate of virus reproduction there dropped to only 0.59. As a result, from May 1, all stores and services will be reopened. Cafes and restaurants will return in mid-May. At most four people will be able to sit at the table, each at least a meter away.

What is the government's schedule to loosen the restrictions on economic activity?

Stage II

May 4

  • opening of stores in shopping malls (under the new sanitary regime),
  • opening of hotels and other staying accomodations

Stage III

  • restaurants and cafes - enabling stationary operations (with restrictions)
  • opening of hairdresser and beauty salons 

Stage IV

  • opening of massage parlors and solariums
  • allowing gyms and fitness clubs to relaunch

***

Every day, 400 journalists at Gazeta Wyborcza write verified, fact-checked stories about the coronovirus pandemic for you.

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