Social distancing at supermarkets: what are supermarkets doing to keep people safe during the coronavirus pandemic?

Following calls for stricter social distancing policies, UK supermarkets will be implementing strict rules to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

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As supermarkets are considered an “essential service” - providing food to the nation - they will remain open during the coronavirus pandemic.

However, new government guidance announced on 23 March stipulates that those retailers remaining open must levy new policies to ensure that a two-metre distance between customers and staff is enforced at all times, and that shoppers are not entering in huge groups.

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Retailers have also been ordered to manage queues outside their stores to protect shoppers from transmission of the virus.

Supermarkets across the UK are implementing policies to protect shoppers from transmission of coronavirus.

What new rules will supermarkets be implementing?

Two-metre rule

The majority of UK supermarkets have said they will be enforcing social distancing across stores, though the rules will vary between chains.

At Waitrose, for example, marshals will be used to police distance between shoppers in queues. Customers will also be guided by cones and stickers on the floor to maintain a two-metre distance between themselves and others in-store.

Avoiding overcrowding

Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Tesco, Asda and Marks & Spencer confirmed that they will be limiting the amount of shoppers allowed in-store at any one time to ensure proper social distancing can be maintained.

Waitrose have said that the amount of shoppers allowed in-store at any one time will be determined by store managers and based on the amount of tills in each individual supermarket.

Once the limit has been reached, shoppers will be allowed in on a strict one in, one out basis.

Protective screens

Most UK supermarkets, including Lidl, Aldi and Sainsburys, are rolling out protective perspex screens across stores to form a barrier between shoppers and staff to prevent viral transmission through droplets.

Waitrose, the Co-op and Sainsburys will also be closing tills where assistants sit back-to-back.

Hand sanitiser

Asda have announced that they will be asking shoppers to only touch items that they wanted to purchase, as well as offering hand sanitiser at the entrance and exit of stores.

Store cleaning

Marks and Spencer will be cleaning screens, trolleys, baskets and all touch points every hour, additionally deep cleaning them every night to allow customers to "shop with confidence".

How are supermarkets protecting the elderly and vulnerable?

Most supermarkets have rolled out individual policies allowing allocated hours for the elderly and vulnerable to shop for what they need.

Some have also added “NHS hours” which allow vital NHS staff to access the supplies they need to keep going.

New social distancing policies will now ensure further protection of these vulnerable and vital shoppers in stores.

In addition, most supermarkets are attempting to curb stockpiling by placing limits on the amount of any one item that shoppers are allowed to purchase. Some are storing essential stock behind tills for those who need it most.

Will pharmacies and other retailers be affected?

Any “essential service” retailers remaining open during the coronavirus pandemic will also have to abide by new rules on social distancing.

This includes pharmacies, home improvement stores, post offices, newsagents and even bike shops, all of which fall under the category of “essential” retailers.