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Coronavirus: Supermarkets limit customer numbers and install screens to protect checkout staff

‘The scenes in stores over the weekend and behaviour of some customers mean that supermarkets need to go further to protect the health, safety and welfare of shopworkers,’ union says

Samuel Osborne
Tuesday 24 March 2020 13:51 GMT
Empty shelves captured by supermarket shopper

Several supermarkets are planning to install protective screens to protect staff and customers at checkouts amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Morrisons and Aldi have already put up perspex screens in their stores and Morrisons is introducing signage to support social distancing, including floor stickers, posters and banners urging people to keep one trolley distance apart.

Paddy Lillis, general secretary of the shop workers union Usdaw, said: “We have increasing concerns about the safety and welfare of staff in stores. The scenes in stores over the weekend and behaviour of some customers mean that supermarkets need to go further to protect the health, safety and welfare of shopworkers.

“We are calling on retailers to continue to improve their stores and procedures to help protect staff. We also call on customers to stay calm, respect shopworkers and practice the necessary hygiene measures to help limit the spread of the virus. We all have to work together to get through this crisis.”

The union called on supermarkets to limit the number of customers in stores, increase security, tell customers to shop alone if possible and only buy what they need and enforce essential workers’ and vulnerable people’s shopping hours.

Aldi and Morrisons have installed screens at the checkouts (Aldi)

It also urged customers to treat shopworkers with courtesy and respect, wash their hands before shopping and only buy what they need, as well as maintain physical distance and pay using contactless.

Waitrose has also introduced measures to back the government’s call for social distancing with what it describes as “a set of strong, new measures” to help customers shop safely.

The number of people allowed in at any one time will be limited so social distancing can be observed, the company said, and a “one in, one out” policy will be used when the shop is at capacity.

Waitrose will also use marshals to manage queues outside shops and remind people to respect the two-metre social distancing rule.

The supermarket will also dedicate its 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.

Supermarkets have seen shelves stripped of essential items, such as toilet rolls, hand sanitiser, paracetamol, meat and vegetables as shoppers ignore advice not to stockpile.

It has led supermarkets to introduce limits on the amount of some items sold.

Stores have also taken on thousands of temporary and permanent workers to deal with the increased demand.

The supermarkets have also been rewarding staff for working through the crisis.

Tesco introduced a 10 per cent hourly bonus for its staff while Asda was giving employees an extra week’s pay.

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