Coronavirus: Concern over Covid rule breakers in supermarkets

Coronavirus: Concern over Covid rule breakers in supermarkets

Supermarkets and shoppers must comply with social distancing rules, the vaccines minister has said, to tackle the spread of Covid-19.

“We need to make sure people actually wear masks and follow the one-way system,” Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News.

People must also be asked to wait outside when shops are at capacity, he added.

He stopped short of saying that supermarket staff should be responsible for enforcing rules on face masks.

Enforcement of face coverings is the responsibility of the police not retailers.

However, retail industry body the British Retail Consortium said that, workers have faced an increase in incidents of violence and abuse when trying to encourage shoppers to put them on.

But Mr Zahawi said that government is “concerned” that social distancing measures are not being adhered to.

“Ultimately, the most important thing to do now is to make sure that actually enforcement – and of course the compliance with the rules – when people are going into supermarkets are being adhered to,” he said.

The minister also called on the public to “behave as if they’ve got the virus” over the coming weeks as the most vulnerable and older people wait for vaccinations.

Under current lockdown restrictions across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, people most only leave home for essential reasons, such as buying food or medicine.

In an attempt to contain the spread of coronavirus, supermarkets introduced social distancing measures during the UK’s first nationwide lockdown last March. They included limits on the numbers of customers in the shops at any one time, protective plastic screens at tills and “marshals” to ensure shoppers were maintaining a two-metre distance.

But amid rising numbers of infections, some have expressed concerns about a “lack of visible protections” implemented by supermarkets in recent weeks.

The First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, said on Saturday that he wanted to see stores policed as they were during the first lockdown as people were worried the strict enforcement of rules did not “appear to be there this time”.

“Given the fact the new variant is so much easier to catch… we are looking at supermarkets and other places where people leave their homes, to make sure they are organised in a way that keeps their staff and customers safe,” he said.

A Morrisons spokeswoman told the BBC that the number of customers allowed in its stores is limited, and it is also asking shoppers to visit alone when they can.

It added that its supermarkets have separate entry and exit points, as well as floor markings, to help social distancing.

Sainsbury’s said: “We continue to have a range of measures in place to keep customers and colleagues safe in our stores.”

A spokeswoman said the supermarket has “greeters” outside of its supermarkets to enforce limits on the number of customers in-store, as well as reminding customers of social distancing and face mask rules over in-store announcements and on posters.

Shop workers’ union Usdaw has also called for firms to apply more stringent measures again.

The union’s general secretary, Paddy Lillis, said that it had received reports that “too many customers are not following necessary safety measures like social distancing, wearing a face covering and only shopping for essential items”.

“It is going to take some time to roll out the vaccine and we cannot afford to be complacent in the meantime, particularly with a new strain sweeping the nation,” Mr Lillis said.

Usdaw has also suggested that “‘one-in one-out” policies and proper queuing systems should be reintroduced in supermarkets.

It added that these systems should be managed by trained security staff where necessary.

Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, added that during this lockdown: “Supermarkets continue to follow all safety guidance and customers should be reassured that supermarkets are Covid-secure and safe to visit during lockdown and beyond.

“Customers should play their part too by following in-store signage and being considerate to staff and fellow shoppers.”

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