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What are the supermarket social distancing rules?

These are the most up to date policies you need to follow 

Louise Whitbread
Tuesday 26 May 2020 09:02 BST
From sanitation stations to 'no touch' rules, these are the ways to prevent the virus spreading
From sanitation stations to 'no touch' rules, these are the ways to prevent the virus spreading (Getty)

Supermarkets are some of the few places that have remained open during the coronavirus outbreak and lockdown.

Delivery slots are mostly in short supply, even though some of the shops have increased their slots by thousands.

We are updating all the information on delivery slots in our guide here, but if you’re unable to shop online, or helping a vulnerable or elderly person, a trip to the shops is most likely still required. You can find the supermarket opening times, including for key workers, here.

Each supermarket chain has introduced its own social distancing measures to keep customers two metres apart, sanitisation stations for trolleys and baskets and even "no-touch" policies to encourage shoppers to only touch what they intend to buy.

But as the coronavirus situation develops, these rules continue to change, we have the most up to date rules to be aware of next time you make an essential trip to the shops.

Alongside this, new guidance from the government briefing on 11 May said people in England should wear face coverings, in "enclosed public spaces", such as in shops and on public transport. Here's our guide to the independent brands you can buy them from for your next trip to the supermarket.

You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

It has recently launched a traffic light system at its entrances, which will signal when customers can enter a store while ensuring there is a two-metre distance maintained at all times.

The store will limit entry during busy times to ensure a two-metre distance between customers, as well as having distance markers on the floors of all its stores, along with implementing a one-way system to shop in-store.

On its website, it has shown the busiest to quietest times to visit its stores. The quietest time is between 7pm-10pm.

It is asking customers to only touch the trolleys you intend to use and is providing sanitation stations at the front of its stores to help customers disinfect their hands, trolleys and baskets.

It has also installed perspex protective screens around more than 7,000 of its tills and is encouraging customers to use contactless or card payments where possible. It is making face masks available to all its staff, who can also access the Government’s Covid-19 testing programme for critical workers.

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Asda has introduced a “no-touch policy”, asking shoppers to pick up only what you intend to buy and has installed signs, directional barriers and floor markers to help you do your shopping while maintaining two-metres apart from other customers and staff. It has also introduced a one-way system for shoppers to navigate through the store.

It is suggesting to pay with card or contactless payments to avoid the handling of cash and has increased the contactless card payment limit from £30 to £45.

To ensure social distancing rules can be observed, Asda will be limiting the number of customers in-store as well as allowing only one trolley per person.

Perspex screens are being introduced at checkouts and kiosks too to protect its staff. It is also offering face masks to any staff who want one.

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The supermarket has social-distancing floor tape to encourage customers to maintain space between other shoppers and staff, as well as limiting the number of people in its stores to ensure this can be followed.

Like most supermarkets, it’s also strongly advising customers to pay using contactless payments, increasing the limit to £45, and has reduced the number of tills open to provide distance between customers.

It has provided hand sanitiser and gloves to staff, installed perspex safety screens at till points and serving counters and invested £3m in protective equipment, too.

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Iceland is closing every other checkout to ensure a two-metre distance is observed and limiting the number of people allowed in-store.

It’s also used floor markers to keep a two-metre distance at all times in queues, along with in-store radio announcements and posters.

Additionally, it has fitted more than 5,000 perspex shield screens at all of its checkouts and increased limits for contactless payments to £45.

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To manage social distancing in its stores, Lidl is limiting the number of customers in-store and has messages posted around its stores to remind customers to keep two metres apart at all times.

On its website, it has created a traffic light system to inform customers of its busiest periods, which are between the hours of 8am-11am. The quietest times to visit stores are from 2pm until close.

It has also introduced “cough and sneeze-proof” screens at its checkouts and extra security to ensure customers maintain social distancing measures and increased its contactless payment limits to £45.

Its staff will be wearing protective visors too and goods from the bakery will now be pre-bagged.

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While Marks & Spencer has closed its outlet stores, its simply food stores and food halls inside its larger stores remain open, with social distancing measures put in place.

It has increased its contactless card payment limit to £45 and is encouraging customers to use cards instead of cash where possible.

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Any shopping in-store will be limited to one trolley per customer and there are floor markers in place to ensure social distancing rules are followed. It has, however, introduced a "Speedy Shopping" lane outside its stores, letting three people in using baskets for every person using a trolley.

Like other supermarket chains, it has also increased its contactless card payment limit to £45 and is encouraging shoppers to use contactless payments whenever you can to reduce the need for physical contact between customers and key workers.

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Sainsbury’s has implemented a queueing system outside its store to limit the number of customers and have provided floor and screen markings on manned checkouts.

It is asking shoppers to only send one adult per household to stores and has installed perspex safety screens on checkouts.

The supermarket is also encouraging customers to pay by card and only use cash at self-service tills. Staff will also be wearing masks when working in-store.

You can also use its in-store app on a mobile which allows you to scan items and limit interaction and queues at the tills.

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To control the number of people in-store, Tesco may help you to park your car, or stay in your car to queue if it’s raining or cold.

There are floor markings in the car park and directional floor markings in-store too to help shoppers maintain a safe distance from each other, and a one-way system has been put in place in all stores. It also has hand sanitisers for customers and colleagues to use, as well as extra cleaning products on hand to wipe down your trolley or basket.

Staff will also be wearing masks when working in-store.

It is also asking shoppers to shop on your own when possible to reduce the number of people in-store.

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In Waitrose stores there will be dedicated marshals to manage queues, maintain a two-metre distance between customers and limit the number of people in-store.

It is asking customers to help with this by sending only one member of a household to do the shopping where possible. There will also be floor signage in all of its shops to ensure customers stay two metres apart.

It has placed screens at checkouts to protect customers and colleagues, with fewer checkouts open too and contactless payments being encouraged.

Shop at Waitrose now

Read our guides on supermarket opening times and supermarket delivery times

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