Non-essential shops can finally open their doors once again today (15 June), after months of closures due to the coronavirus outbreak. It’s an important move to kickstart our economy, but one that’s loaded with challenges, from ensuring customers keep appropriate social distance to navigating transactions like payments with minimal risk to shoppers or staff.
Early reports indicate that demand for retail therapy is high, with queues for stores like Primark (which doesn’t offer an online shopping option) snaking around the block. If you want to support the high street but are worried about keeping yourself and others safe during your trip, Parvinder Sagoo, Medical Advisor at Simply Meds, has the following advice:
Wear a mask
‘The most imperative thing you should be doing to prevent possible transmissions is to wear a face mask at all times,’ says Parvinder.
‘Opt for a mask which covers your mouth and nose area fully and sits tight enough on the skin so there are no gaps between skin and mask where possible droplets can enter. If you can purchase a filtered mask this is advisable, failing that a well-made, double layered mask should suffice.
‘Keep the mask on at all times, even when you are in less crowded areas. If you do take the mask off ensure you keep it in a sealed tight container or bag and not just loosely in your handbag as it could be open to gathering bacteria.’
Avoid small spaces
‘No doubt shops and shopping centres today will be packed,’ she adds. ‘Try and 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. Do not queue for a shop unless you have to as this most likely means it will 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 particles and bacteria.’
‘Don’t head into town without your hand sanitiser, anti-bacterial wipes and any other items you feel you may need,’ Parvinder advises. ‘I 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.
‘Once you have arrived home, I’d recommend that you wash any clothing items you have bought straight away to ensure they are virus-free before putting them in your wardrobe.’
Keep your distance
‘Other people are usually the problem when it comes to social distancing – you may be adhering to the rules but if someone else isn’t then this could cause risk to your health,’ Parvinder notes.
‘Stay alert whilst moving round the shops – if anyone is coming too close to you, step back and keep the 2m 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, and if you feel anyone is coming too close to you then politely ask them if they could move away.
‘At the till use your gloves when using the pin pad, or if you do not have gloves ensure you hand sanitiser as soon as you are out of the store.’
Avoid restaurants if you can
‘Many shopping centre restaurants will be reopening today; however, I would avoid entering these as they will most likely be very busy,’ explains Parvinder.
‘Eating in public and out in the open could also be detrimental as airborne respiratory droplets could essentially land in your food and end up in your mouth. Not only this, food trays, packaging, exposed food and drink is also open to having droplets landing on them from moving from counter to seat and from those people around you, again posing a huge risk.
‘Opt for takeaway rather than eating in as this way the food is prepared and then covered until you are home, or you could eat it outside or in a park which is an environment that is less risky.’