Sat 28 March 2020:
With lockdown conditions imposed in many countries to try to prevent the spread of coronavirus, everyday activities such as shopping are going to be different from usual for some time.
Here are some tips on how to practise physical distancing while purchasing essential food and medical supplies.
1. Use delivery services where possible
The fewer people on the streets and in shops, the less chance there is for people to pass on coronavirus. If you can get delivery services, this will reduce the amount of times you have to leave the house. This will help slow, and ease, the peak of infections in the population that politicians and scientists worry will overwhelm health services.
2. Shop alone, not in groups
Clearly there will be exceptions: for example, single parents with small children who cannot be left at home, but where possible you should try to shop alone. That will reduce the number of people inside stores, making physical distancing easier to achieve. It also reduces the number of people in your household exposed to the outdoors. Remember: studies show that, on average, people can have coronavirus for five days before they develop any symptoms, and all that time they can be unwittingly spreading it.
3. Wash your hand before you leave
If you do use the store’s baskets, carts and bags, thoroughly wash your hands before you leave home to protect others, bring your own sanitary wipes if you have them, to wipe down the basket or cart (many stores don’t stock these or are at risk of running out) and be sure to wash your hands when you get home.
4. Stay 2 metres away from other customers and staff
Keep clear of people on the way to and from the shops, and when inside them as well, if possible. Be patient and take your turn to access goods in fridges and freezers. Some supermarkets are helping to do this by limiting the number of people who can be inside a shop at any given time. When purchasing your shopping, try to keep your distance from shop workers as well. With self-service checkouts and pin pads, you may have no choice but to come into contact with surfaces that have been handled by many people. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth until you have washed your hands. Some stores are providing hand sanitiser, and cleaning shopping trolleys and baskets between customers.
5. Only buy the essential things you need
It is natural that people worried about potentially being stuck indoors self-isolating for 14 days want to stock up on supplies. However, panic-buying means there can be shortages of food and medical products for people who rely on them. And there are reports of increased food waste as people have stockpiled perishable goods that they could not possibly have consumed in time. If everybody buys only what they need, there will be enough for all.
6. Stop handling cash
While it’s believed that the highest risk of acquiring coronavirus comes from person-to-person transmission, we do know that shared surfaces can harbor the virus. Play it safe by setting the cash aside for now and relying more on contactless payments.
7. Respect shopping hours for healthcare workers and the vulnerable
Many shops including supermarkets are setting aside certain hours of the week specifically for shopping to be carried out by key workers, the elderly, and those with underlying health conditions that mean they are trying to shield themselves from exposure to the virus. Clearly, it is difficult to enforce this, but be considerate when you choose to visit the shops to avoid coming into contact with these groups.
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