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COVID-19: Medical and law professionals provide guide for supermarkets to operate safely in the new normal

It is increasingly recognised that the COVID-19 pandemic may last 1 to 2 years. It is expected that COVID-19 cases will recur episodically and we will have to control each ‘wave’ until it gradually fades over time. Hence retail outlets, especially supermarkets, will have to adjust to this situation and continue to maintain a safe environment for shoppers and staff.

Supermarkets play an important role in COVID-19 prevention. Many supermarkets have put in place measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 at their premises. However, as the Movement Control Order is relaxed, and client numbers increase, supermarkets will have to be even more vigilant.

We offer here a ‘Guide for Supermarkets to Standardise COVID-19 Prevention’: the ‘new normal’ for supermarkets. This guide aims to help standardise the measures to be taken by all supermarkets, as well as offer ideas and initiatives that could be taken.

The complete supermarket guide is available for download and use from this link: https://bit.ly/2VpxdJg

For staff the guide covers training and retraining, need for personal protective equipment, cleaning routines for the supermarket premises and trolleys, contactless payment, staff meal times and risk of socialising, regular staff monitoring and health checks, family safety and appendices for useful information. The guide offers ideas on how to determine the maximum number of shoppers to be allowed into the premises and how to ‘speed up’ the shopping episode.

Shoppers also have a responsibility to the supermarket staff and other customers. For shoppers, the guide covers safe physical distancing, hand-washing and disinfection, use of masks, temperature screening and priority shopping time slots. The guide also provides advice on minimising risk behaviour. For example, shoppers wearing gloves may pose a risk to others and to themselves, as glove wearing may give a false sense of security, leading to high-risk touching of items.

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Changes or alternatives to established shopping methods are suggested. These include expanding online shopping with home delivery services, establishing a comprehensive ‘drive-by-pick-up-shopping’ service, prepack commonly-purchased items for quick pick up and free parking to minimise button and card contact.

It is important that supermarkets all over the country standardise their practices and continue to learn from each other and other countries. Attention to detail and adherence to a strong routine of standardised measures will help us through these difficult times.

This opinion piece was contributed by Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS, Consultant Paediatrician, Yuenwah San, Senior Advisor on Disability Inclusion, Social Development Division, United Nations ESCAP, Datin Dr Lim Swee Im, retired Medical Practitioner and Ernest Balasingam, Lawyer & Trainer (HR Compliance & Regulatory). If you have an article or opinion that you would like to contribute for the benefit everyone, share it with us here.

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