Some of Britain’s biggest retailers are introducing stricter measures for the safety of staff and customers as they respond to the coronavirus crisis.
Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Asda plan to limit the number of shoppers allowed into their stores at any given time.
Tesco boss Dave Lewis has written to customers saying staff will draw new floor markings in the checkout areas, install protective screens on checkouts, and introduce one-way aisles.
“Our social distancing plans aim to protect customers from the moment they enter our car parks, to browsing products, to paying and finally exiting our stores,” he wrote.
In a letter to customers, Sainsbury’s chief executive Mike Coupe said the number of people allowed in stores and at ATMs at any one time will be limited.
He said queuing systems will be put in place outside stores and people are urged to arrive throughout the day to avoid long queues forming in the morning, and encouraged people to pay by card.
“We will be reminding people in stores to keep a safe distance from other customers and from our colleagues,” he said.
Mr Coupe said the number of checkouts will be reduced and screens will be introduced.
He said many customers have written to him to say they are elderly or vulnerable and are struggling to book online delivery slots.
“We are doing our absolute best to offer online delivery slots to elderly, disabled and vulnerable customers. These customers have priority over all slots.
“Our customer Careline has been inundated with requests from elderly and vulnerable customers – we have had one year’s worth of contacts in two weeks.
“We have proactively contacted 270,000 customers who had already given us information that meant we could identify them as being in these groups,” he said.
Mr Coupe, who apologised to regular online customers, and said they have already booked in slots for 115,000 elderly, disabled and vulnerable customers this week.
Meanwhile, Sainsbury’s said it is temporarily closing 12 convenience stores which have seen “significantly fewer customers in recent days as people are working from home”.
The employees will move to neighbouring stores until these stores re-open.
Elsewhere, shoppers at Asda have seen changes including markers on the floor to help customers keep two metres apart, barriers, signs and announcements. The supermarket has also asked shoppers to ditch cash in favour of card payments.
Lloyds Pharmacy said that only two customers would be allowed into its stores at any one time. The chain will adopt a strict two-in two-out policy.
“We need to ensure people keep two metres apart and that we give our colleagues the time to dispense medicines safely and in a timely way. We are asking customers to be a little more tolerant of waiting times and, at times, this may mean waiting outside the pharmacy,” said chief executive Toby Anderson.
Lloyds also said it is looking to fill 1,500 vacancies. These will firstly be filled by staff moving from other areas, and staff members’ family members will also be given preference.
Lidl has announced it will install new donation boxes in store to collect for vulnerable families, extending a scheme that has been in place since 2017.
All non-essential stores have been forced to close as Britons are told to stay inside as much as possible, and only leave for supplies and a short daily exercise.