TOWN centres in south Oxfordshire were brought back to life this week as non-essential businesses shut for three months were finally ‘unlocked’.

Retailers across the area reopened following the Government-mandated lockdown and peopled queued in socially-distanced lines to get into shops.

Big chains such as Clarks, TK Maxx and Mcdonalds welcomed their customers back alongside small independent shops, all with new safety measures.

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New rules include limiting the number of customers allowed inside a shop at one time and card-only payments.

Abingdon town councillor Neil Fawcett applauded businesses for their efforts and said it was clear that a ‘huge amount of work’ had gone into reopening.

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He added: “I am delighted that more local shops are now able to open, it has been a very tough time for the many businesses that serve our town.

“I encourage residents to start using our local businesses again, and to do so safely and within the social distancing guidelines.”

Didcot Town Councillor Pamela Siggers, who ventured into the town centre yesterday, admitted she did not see ‘crowds rushing into stores’.

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She described the streets as ‘quiet, calm and organised’ and added that the only queue she spotted was outside of TK Maxx.

Local authorities have been working on further measures to ensure ‘unlocked’ high streets do not cause a second coronavirus outbreak.

Wantage Town Council put forward a plan to close big chunks of the town centre to the district and county councils last week.

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Using metal barriers to restrict heavy traffic, streets would be adapted for cyclists and walkers.

Councillor Jenny Hannaby said: “Everyone wants to go back to normality but in a safe manner.

“The good news is the town centre is very much opened and I support it fully.

“However, the project to adapt it for cyclists and walkers is up in the air – we have put it forward but nothing is confirmed yet.”

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Vale of White Horse District Council leader Emily Smith said installing a similar scheme in Abingdon would be ‘very difficult’.

She said: “A lot of ideas have been put forward to Oxfordshire County Council cabinet members but we are still waiting for a decision.”

Ms Smith said there were also ideas to widen pavements in some areas to accommodate for social-distanced shopping.

While many welcomed the reopening, some were not convinced that social-distancing measures were enough.

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Abingdon man Paul Stevens took to Facebook to express his concerns.

He said: “I will not go anywhere near the town on Monday, or any day this week.

“Far too many people think the pandemic is all over.”

Another resident Naomi Mulligan agreed with Mr Stevens and added: “I understand people wanting or needing to go, especially for children’s shoes but I am going to hold out.

“I am not going to go when I do not need to, adding to potential glut of shoppers.

“It is too soon for casual browsing, maybe too soon for essential shopping, as much as I miss it.”

In addition to allowing reopening of businesses, the government made it mandatory to wear face coverings on public transport in an effort to reduce risks of the spread of coronavirus.