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Hundreds of shoppers queue at B&Q in Liffey Valley. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Hundreds of shoppers queue at B&Q in Liffey Valley. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Colin Keegan

Hundreds of shoppers queue at B&Q in Liffey Valley. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Long queues formed outside hardware stores as people flocked to pick up supplies on the first day of the easing of coronavirus lockdown measures.

The weather slowed down the predicted rush earlier in the day, but by lunchtime steady lines of eager customers began to build.

Retail Ireland, the Ibec group that represents the retail sector, said the phase one reopening went well, with stores successfully implementing social- distancing requirements.

"Stores reopening are reporting brisk but manageable trade," Retail Ireland director Arnold Dillon said.

"There are sizable queues in places, but these are being well managed and customers have been understanding and co-operative. Everyone wants to get this right.

"The reopening timetable will, however, leave many retailers closed for the foreseeable future.

"If public health objectives are met, we are hopeful that the timeline for the safe reopening of the entire sector can be brought forward."

Cautious

Traffic levels jumped by as much as 38pc when compared with last Monday as the country took the first cautious steps out of lockdown.

Information on traffic volumes showed more people took to the roads yesterday as hardware stores, garden centres, farmers' markets and outdoor building work opened up after two months of enforced closure.

Traffic just south of the border on the N1 at Jonesboro was up 38pc when compared with last Monday, according to statistics from Transport Infrastructure Ireland.

Car traffic volumes on the radial routes into Dublin showed an increase of between 23pc and 32pc between 7am and 10am.

Car traffic on the M11 at Bray was up 32pc, on the M4 at Celbridge-Maynooth 28pc, on the N7 at Citywest there was an increase of 27pc and on the M1 Swords to airport road it was up 23pc.

In the case of regional cities, the increases in car traffic volumes were 30pc on the N40 in Cork, 25pc on the M7 in Limerick and on Bothar na dTreabh in Galway, and 19pc on the M9 in Waterford.

As thousands of retailers were bracing themselves for a sudden rush of shoppers, there were concerns among politicians and health officials of large queues that could help the spread of Covid-19.

The fears that crowds might form early queues to be first in the doors for paint and plants were largely unfounded, and at many Dublin outlets there was a slow but steady trade at opening time.

At B&Q in Tallaght, the doors opened at 8am, by which time there were around 30 people waiting outside.

Staff had a barrier system in place, and manager Anthony Keogh said his role was ensuring the safety of customers and staff.

There was a hand and trolley cleaning station inside the door, and customers entered in a staggered formation, with no more than 50 allowed in at any one time.

Masks

"We'll be encouraging brisk shopping, and payment is by card only," said Mr Keogh.

Waiting nervously in the queue with their face masks and gloves were John and Mary Little, from nearby Millbrook Lawns.

"We started tiling a room before the lockdown and ran out of tiles so we need to get two boxes," Ms Little said.

"We'd be afraid they don't have the same ones or someone else would buy them."

First in the queue were Adrian and Gabriela Ioan, from Tallaght.

"We thought there would be a big queue, so we came early. We're trying to finish a garden project, so we came to buy some plants," said Mr Ioan.

Before the store opened, a garda car and two officers on bicycles paid a quick visit, but when they saw everything was quiet they left.

Joe Ryan, from Old Bawn, was in the queue to buy grass seed and fence paint.

"There's always something needs to be done. I'd usually be in the gym every day, but since they closed I've been working around the house and garden," he said.

B&Q regional HR manager Michelle Mahon was busy guiding people into the store and explaining the safety protocols.

For musician Kieran Kelly, who plays with a band called The Rambling Itch, it was his first day out of his Kilnamanagh house since March 14.

He was there to buy some paint and flowers with his wife, Helen.

"It's great to be out, and it'll be better when I'm back playing trad sessions," he said.

Safe

At the B&Q store in Liffey Valley, management said a queue began forming from around 7am.

Staff members sectioned off a large part of the car park and implemented a queue system with yellow rope that kept shoppers a safe distance from each other.

Manager Craig Verdon said if any pinch points developed in the store, they would move the queue outside.

"It's quite fluid and we have constant monitoring of it. At the moment people are waiting around 30 minutes," he said around noon.

At the Newlands Garden Centre, Micheal and Marie Devitt were preparing their team for the 9am opening.

An anticipated crowd situ- ation did not arise, and by opening time only around 20 customers were waiting patiently in the car park.