HAND sanitisation stations, a one-way system up and down Southend High Street and queuing patiently outside stores will greet shoppers when they return on June 15.

Detailed plans are being worked up by councils to ensure town centres are Covid-secure when high street favourites open again after ten weeks in lockdown.

In recent days, McDonald’s has seen queues of up to an hour and hundreds waited in line to get into Ikea at Lakeside.

Traders and council bosses now hope the clamour to get back to a sense of normality will trigger a semi-resurgence of our town centres - while maintaining a social distance.

Southend Council’s deputy leader councillor Ron Woodley said shops and stores re-opening represents an economic boost for many by protecting jobs and returning people from furlough.

He said: “This is a positive sign. It means jobs will be coming back and people will be earning a salary. They will no longer need to be paid through the furlough scheme.

“The economic base is beginning to get back to some kind of normality and that is the key message here, having these shops and businesses re-open shows things are starting to go back to normal and that means economic benefits for residents.”

All non-essential shops are expected to re-open from the middle of the month.

Full details of the council’s plan for the High Street are expected to be unveiled next week but early conversations suggest shopping will be a very different experience to the one we are used to.

Joan Tiney, chairman of the Seafront Traders’ Association, has been part of the council’s stakeholder meetings, which focus on how to handle the easing of the lockdown.

She explained that conversations have centred around introducing one-way systems on each side of the road, as well as hand sanitising stations.

Meanwhile, businesses are to be given leaflets that explain the kinds of changes they need to make to comply with social distancing.

Despite queues at McDonald’s and Ikea, Ms Tiney was unsure it would be the same for the High Street.

She said: “I can’t see many people browsing in the shops, who would want to queue up ten times, they will be more likely to only go to the ones they want to go to.”

She also questioned how well queuing systems can work outside shops because if it does become busy, many could end up “intermingling” with each other.

Labour councillor Kevin Robinson, who oversees business, leisure and tourism, said: “With wider shop re-opening expected on June 15, the council has been working at a fast pace and with a variety of stakeholders including Southend Business Improvement District and representatives from all of our different areas to help ensure relevant plans and measures are in place to enable people to shop safely.

“A one size fits all approach will not work because all of our areas have different challenges and that is why a wide group is involved in this work.

“Whilst there will be a consistent approach to messaging, signage and guidance for businesses for example, different areas will need different measures and approaches for queue management and parking, for example.”