However, publishing a full list of stores that can stay open for business hasn’t dissipated the confusion.
The uncertainty was revealed on Tuesday when Michael Gove was forced to clarify that Sports Direct stores could not remain open, despite owner Mike Ashley claiming that the provision of sports equipment was a vital asset.
While the government has urged the public to go to the supermarket only when necessary, the advice remains ambiguous and there is no set limit on the number of visits people can make to their local store.
Without such guidelines, it is unclear how this advice is supposed to be applied by supermarkets or the competent authorities.
The guidelines state that purchases should only be for “basic necessities” and should be as infrequent as possible. How many times is this?
Ultimately, it is a judgment call for individual households. Food, Energy and Rural Affairs (Defra) officials said the needs of a large family will be different from that of a childless couple.
However, it is hoped that the boards will encourage people to plan for the week rather than picking up items on a daily basis.
Here is our guide to find out which stores remain open and which are closed.
What essential stores are open?
Stores that are exempt from government bans are food retailers, pharmacies, hardware stores, convenience stores, gas stations, hospital stores, post offices, banks, newsagents, laundromats and pet stores.
Which stores will be forced to close?
Stores deemed non-essential will now be closed. These include stores selling clothes, books and electrical appliances, as well as hairdressers, guesthouses and markets, both indoors and outdoors.
What happens to non-compliant stores?
The government has said stores that open in defiance of the ban could be prosecuted by trade standards officers.
Are the takeaways open?
Yes, for collection and delivery orders only. The restaurants are closed. You can also use online services such as Deliveroo and Uber Eats to have food delivered to your home.
Which street stores are affected?
A number of well-known stores in a variety of industries have already announced that they will close their stores. These include Ikea, Costa Coffee, John Lewis, Pret, Next, Itsu, Subway, McDonald’s and Nando’s.
Some stores have promised to stay open. Sports Direct said it would not close stores, arguing that as a discount sportswear retailer it was “particularly well-placed to help keep the UK as fit and healthy as possible ”.
Mike Ashley, owner of Sports Direct and Evans Cycles, said his companies can provide exercise equipment at home while the gyms are closed.
Michael Gove was forced to intervene after the retailer asked the government to “confirm” whether or not to stay open. Gove said he was not an “essential retailer,” forcing Sports Direct to a humiliating U-turn.
As a bicycle store, Evans Cycles is exempt from closure.
Why do stores have to close?
As with pubs, restaurants and other places of social activity, the government wants to end any chance of spreading the virus among people, especially people in groups.
Stores can help the virus spread because it can live on surfaces for a while – so the items you pick up in the store could carry the virus; then you could be infected yourself or pass it on to someone else. Scientists say closing stores greatly reduces the risk of the virus spreading.
If fewer people are infected, the NHS will be less stressed and more lives will be saved.
How will the order be stored in supermarkets? – answers to your purchase questions
Q: Can I only order food for delivery?
A: This is a problem that individual supermarkets have to determine. Retailers like Asda, which also sells clothing from its own George fashion line, may continue to allow people to buy non-food items from their weekly grocery store.
And while department stores deemed non-essential, such as fashion retailers and department stores, have closed, they remain open for business through online shopping and deliveries.
John Lewis, for example, continues to take orders online and will continue to deliver large items to homes where no one isolates themselves with suspected symptoms of coronavirus.
The risk of spreading the virus is greatly reduced thanks to online deliveries, which is why all retailers are allowed to continue selling.
Q: How will the order be stored in supermarkets?
A: Supermarket leaders have warned the government that food shortages can lead to civil disobedience in stores and even riots in the most extreme circumstances.
The police are working closely with the sector, but Priti Patel, the Minister of the Interior, has made it clear that she does not want to see officers used to guard the stores. Instead, they will likely be asked to respond to the incidents. Supermarkets are already strengthening their security measures to deal with unruly customers.
Q: The guide states that all pubs must close, but notes that the planning rules can be changed to allow them to offer takeout services. Which one is it?
A: Pubs and restaurants have been closed for fear that nearby diners and drinkers will accelerate the spread of the virus.
To help support businesses during an extended shutdown period, the government allows them to switch to takeout and delivery services, allowing them to continue trading but without additional risk.
However, concerns have been expressed over the weekend that leisure enthusiasts using London’s parks have gathered outside kiosks and pubs that have already converted.
It is unclear at this time whether the government will introduce additional directives to remedy this.
Q: What happens if other stores do not close as directed?
A: The government has said businesses that challenge the foreclosure are at risk of being sued by trade standards officers, who have the power to impose “potentially unlimited fines”.
Q: Can I take my children to the stores?
A: While public gatherings of more than two people have been banned, the government has made an exception for those who live together. This means that parents who cannot leave their children at home while they buy essential items can take them with them to the supermarket.
Find out more: What does British foreclosure mean to you?