Shops providing the country with essential goods have outlined how they plan to keep staff and customers safe during the coronavirus lockdown.

Waitrose has backed the Government's plea for social distancing with what it calls "a set of strong, new measures" to help its customers shop safely.

The company said the number of customers allowed in at any one time will be limited so that social distancing can be observed, and a "one in, one out" policy will be operated when it is judged that the shop is at capacity.

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Customers coming to Waitrose will see marshals who will help to manage queues outside shops and if necessary remind people to respect the two-metre social distancing rule.

Waitrose will dedicate the first opening hour to elderly and vulnerable customers and those caring for them, while NHS staff will continue to be given priority checkout service.

There will also be "safe distance" floor signage, protective screens at checkouts, and additional security.

Morrisons, which has already put up screens, is introducing signage in stores to support social distancing, including floor stickers, posters and banners which will ask customers to keep one trolley distance apart, as well as giving guidance on where to wait and where to queue.

Nationwide Building Society has reduced its branch opening hours in response to the crisis, with most branches now opening from 10am until 2pm from Monday to Friday, and 9am until 12pm on Saturday.

Nationwide said there will be a two-metre distance rule between staff and customers at all times, while numbers of people in branches will be restricted to ensure rules around space can be controlled as much as possible.

Where possible, customers are being asked to use online or mobile banking services, particularly those at higher risk.

Air pollution in UK cities is falling as the country goes into lockdown, mirroring what has happened in other parts of the world, experts said.

As daily life grinds to a halt in the UK, with a sharp reduction in traffic that causes much of the air pollution in cities, air quality has started to improve here.

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It is not yet clear what the health impacts of reductions in air pollution, which causes an estimated 40,000 early deaths in the UK each year, will be.

Air pollution is linked to health problems including stroke, heart disease, lung cancer and disease, and respiratory diseases and infections, as well as stunting the growth of children's lungs.

Professor Alastair Lewis, from the National Centre for Atmospheric Science, University of York, said: "Air quality has started to improve in many UK cities, mirroring what has been seen in other countries that have restricted travel and levels of outdoor activity.

"This is primarily a consequence of lower traffic volumes, and some of the most clear reductions have been in nitrogen dioxide, which comes primarily from vehicle exhaust."

UK manufacturers have reported their weakest order books since the 2008 financial crisis, according to new figures from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

The CBI's monthly industrial trends survey revealed that total order books and export order books "considerably worsened" in February as the coronavirus outbreak gathered pace.

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However, some sectors such as chemicals and food and drink, reported expanding output volumes during the period between February 25 and March 13.

This was heavily offset by a sharp drop in output from factories producing motor vehicles and transport equipment.

Companies surveyed said their stocks are currently in line with the year average, but said they expect output prices to increase in the next three months.

The CBI said 15% of manufacturers reported order books which were better than normal, while 44% of firms said orders were below expectations, providing a figure of -29% for the month. This represents a significant decline from a reading of -18% in February.

Anna Leach, CBI deputy chief economist, said: "The manufacturing sector is facing unprecedented challenges due to Covid-19, such as widespread disruption to supply chains and weakening demand due to domestic containment measures.

"With expectations for output set to fall in the coming months, it's now more important than ever manufacturers get the support they need."

Tom Crotty, group director of Ineos and chairman of the CBI Manufacturing Council, said: "Given the hugely challenging circumstances faced by all businesses across the country as a result of coronavirus, it is not surprising that manufacturers are also feeling the impact.

"The Government's various support measures have been welcome, but it will be essential to keep its response under continuous review to ensure that firms get through the crisis."