The Wisecrack

News for nerds

After three long months of lockdown the shops are reopening today.

Non-essential shops have been closed for weeks, but as of today we can go back to clothes shops, department stores, electronics shops, and most other shops that you find on the high street.

It is still vital that you maintain social distancing while out shopping, and wear a face mask when it isn’t possible to be two-metres apart from others, and shops are taking extra precautions to improve hygiene and safety – but there is still a virus out there, so there is still a risk.

If you do decide you want to head straight back to the shops today, it’s really important that you’re careful and you follow all the rules. And it’s understandable if you’re nervous.

Research from Unilever shows that the overwhelming majority (87%) are worried about picking up Covid-19 from surfaces in shops and other businesses when they reopen.

Dr Lisa Ackerley has offered expert advice for consumers to help them prepare for shops reopening – how to stay safe and keep those anxieties at bay.

‘With nearly a third (32%) of the population concerned about surface hygiene practices at small/independent local shops, cafes, and businesses, it’s important that we as consumers feel prepared to venture into the outside world and exercise hygiene advice to prevent the spread of Covid-19,’ says Dr Lisa.

‘First and foremost, if you’re feeling unwell or self-isolating, do not leave your house!

‘For those who are healthy enough to do so, when you arrive at the shop, queue responsibly outside until it’s your turn and observe distancing rules.

‘Take this time to observe any notices the business may have put in place – for example, there may be one entrance and a separate exit to reduce the risk of people in proximity.’

Dr Lisa suggests using a good hand sanitiser – one with more than 60% alcohol – as you enter the shop – and then use it again after handling clothes and paying.

‘When paying, ask if you can do so via an app or use contactless, as cash has a high chance of carrying many germs,’ she says.

‘Don’t be alarmed if you notice the cashier cleaning the card machine between customers. It’s important that businesses regularly disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as card machines, using products that are scientifically-proven to kill the virus.

How to stay safe in the shops

  • If you are unwell – stay at home
  • Observe social distancing rules and keep your distance from other people
  • Wear a face mask in spaces where it would be hard to social distance – and at all times on public transport
  • Use hand sanitiser when you enter the shop, and then again after handling clothes, surface and paying
  • Avoid touching your face or removing your mask while shopping

‘In fact, business owners and consumers can rest assured, thanks to a new lab test, that Domestos Thick Bleach (1:8 dilution ratio of bleach to water) and Cif Antibacterial Spray are both over 99.99% effective against SARS-CoV-2.

‘Always remember, another important way to help prevent the spread of the virus is to wash your hands thoroughly at key moments (with soap and water for at least 20 seconds) or use a hand sanitiser over 60% alcohol, and practice social distancing.’

Parvinder Sagoo, medical advisor at SimplyMeds adds that it’s important to opt for a mask which covers your mouth and nose area fully, and sits tight enough on the skin.

‘If you can purchase a filtered mask this is advisable, failing that a well-made, double layered mask should suffice,’ says Parvinder. ‘Keep the mask on at all times, even when you are in less crowded areas.

‘No doubt shops and shopping centres today will be packed. Try to keep your distance from others as much as possible, if a shop looks crowded or has a queue that is not adopting social distancing then avoid it.’

Parvinder adds that you shouldn’t queue for a shop unless you have to, because a queue means the shop may be crowded inside.

‘If you are clothes shopping, avoid any small or compact areas such as changing rooms or the top floor of shops where there is not much air flow and it can get hot and muggy, a haven for any possible bacteria.

‘Do not head into town without your hand sanitiser, anti-bacterial wipes and any other items you feel you may need. We would also advise wearing surgical gloves especially if you are heading into a clothes store where everyone will be touching the clothes and materials, therefore increasing risk of possible transmission.’

Stay alert whilst moving round the shops, suggests Parvinder.

‘If anyone is coming too close to you, step back and keep the 2 metre rule in mind. If someone appears to be coughing or sneezing, then move far away from them.

‘When you are queuing for the till, be mindful of your space, if you feel anyone is coming too close to you then politely ask them if they could move away.’

What are shops doing to keep customers safe?
Staying safe as shops reopen is a joint effort. Customers must be sensible and follow all guidelines, but business-owners also have a responsibility to keep consumers as safe as possible.

Retailers have been told to make every effort to comply with social distancing, according to the latest guidance from the government.

Where this is not possible, they’re advised to take mitigating measures including reviewing the layout of their shop, screens to separate people from each other, staggering the arrival and departure times of employees to avoid overcrowding, and a one-way flow system through stores with floor markings and signage.

When it comes to customers, retailers are being encouraged to limit the number of customers in-store and encourage them to shop alone, use floor markings and signage to aid social distancing, and suspend or reduce customer services that cannot be undertaken without breaking social distancing guidelines.

The government is also encouraging shops to use outside space for queuing where possible, and fitting rooms should also be carefully considered and only used where necessary.

When handling returns, these should be no contact where possible and products should be taken to designated areas.

Returns should also be kept separate from displayed merchandise to reduce likelihood of transmission.