Published: 09:04, 24 March 2020
| Updated: 18:42, 24 March 2020
The Government has clarified which businesses can stay open during the UK-wide lockdown to stem the spread of coronavirus.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government published guidance last night after Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered all non-essential businesses and premises to shut.
Retail and public premises that remain open must ensure a distance of two metres between customers and shop assistants and allow people to enter a shop only in small groups.
The shops which can remain open are:
Online retail is 'still open and encouraged' and postal and delivery service will run as normal.
Although restaurants and cafes are closed, food delivery and takeaway can remain operational.
The guidance notes: "This means people can continue to enter premises to access takeaway services, including delivery drivers.
"Planning regulation will be changed to enable restaurants, cafes and pubs which do not currently offer delivery and hot food takeaway to do so.
"This will be clearly communicated by the government when in effect.
"People must not consume food or drinks on site at restaurants, cafes or pubs whilst waiting for takeaway food."
Community centres, youth centres and similar 'may remain open for the purpose of hosting essential voluntary or public services, such as food banks or homeless services'.
Funerals following the social distancing guidance and places of worship 'should remain open for solitary prayer'.
The Government says it 'will look again at these measures in three weeks, and relax them if the evidence shows this is possible'.
Dean Books runs the Cycles UK bike shop in Lower Stone Street, Maidstone. He admitted to being a little surprised to learn that his business could stay open.
But he said: "Not when you think about it. We do service bikes for key workers, in fact we are repairing a policeman's bike right now, and we had three nurses in here earlier."
"We actually do a lot for the NHS under their Cycle To Work scheme."
Now he has official sanction, he aims to stay open as normal.
He said: "Business hasn't been too sad actually. It's a lovely day and everyone wants to get out on their bikes. The Government says you can still go for a bike ride with your family - and there's not much else to do!"
The shop employs four people.
Not far away, Maidstone's other town centre bike shop has taken a different view. Evans Cycles in has a notice in its window telling customers it is closed due to the virus.
Engarshal Sinnarrsa has run Lucky's Newsagents in Boughton Parade for the past 10 years. His shop remains open, though he is having to adjust.
He said: "A lot of people are asking if we can deliver items with their newspapers, which we are happy to do.
"We see it as serving the community - not a means to make money. A lot of customers rely on us."
What may make it difficult for him is finding the stock. He said: "We have some local suppliers we depend on - a farm in Boughton Monchelsea for example. But it's becoming increasingly difficult to get items from the cash-and carry.
"Last week, I did a deal with some catering suppliers - people who usually sell to the restaurant trade but have lost their market. The trouble is they are more expensive. I have to pay £1.80 myself for a two-pint bottle of milk!"
Just along The Parade from Lucky's is the Dolly Tub launderette. They could stay open but have decided to reduce their hours. A notice informs customers that they will only be open on Wednesdays and Saturdays in future.
Garages can stay open and Kwik Fit in Loose Road, Maidstone, is open for business - but there's not much of it.
A spokesman at the branch said: "Business has been badly affected for a couple of weeks - especially today. It is important we stay open: those people who have to move around, doctors and nurses and so on, may need our services to stay on the road.
"We 're doing our best to let people know we are still open through social media etc, but I don't think people in general realise."
The garage employs five people and the head office is keeping the situation "under review".
As short distance away, Maidstone Aquatics tropical fish shop is open. The business also sells birds and reptiles. Owner Mark Smith was not surprised to learn his business was excluded from the general closure. He said: "We have to come in to feed the animals - and customers need to come in to buy feed for theirs."
However, he has seen a down-turn in trade. He said: "We've put out on social media that people should come in in the mornings, we'll probably close around lunch-time each day.
"We've been having daily staff meetings to decide what's best to do. It's a blow. But this is a serious situation and we get it."
Mr Smith employs three staff.
Transport and taxi firms are among those allowed to continue trading, but Mark and Tracie Jones who run Sapphire Cars wonder how much longer they can carry on.
Mr Jones said: "There are still people who use a taxi to get to work or to do their shopping, but our custom has dropped by 90 or 95%.
"We have 38 drivers - and they are all self-employed, so obviously they are feeling it. We've had to reduce people's shifts, because in the evening there's just no business any more."
The crisis has come as a devastating blow to the couple who have built up the business from scratch.
Mr Jones said: "When I started as a driver I did two jobs on my first day. We built up and the firm was doing 2,500 jobs until just a short while ago."
"Today, we've done just 15. A business that took 17 years to create has been lost in two weeks."
Mrs Jones said: "It's disappointing because travelling by taxi is probably the safest way to go. Our drivers wipe down the car after every customer and we have limited each car to two customers, so they can sit in the back behind the driver. They are far less likely to come into contact with the virus in our cars than travelling on the bus."
By the end of the week, the couple are closing their office in Pudding Lane, Maidstone, and customers will only be able to book a ride over the phone.
Mr Jones said: "I wonder what may still be coming down the line. The economy will take years to recover from this, taxes will soar and I worry about whether we will see an increase in crime and will the rubbish get collected?"
More by this authorEleanor Perkins