Hertfordshire councillor urges supermarkets to do more to halt spread of virus

Cllr Tim Hutchings says supermarkets need to do more to protect festive shoppers

Wednesday, 16th December 2020, 3:29 pm
Updated Wednesday, 16th December 2020, 4:10 pm

Supermarkets in Hertfordshire are failing to do enough to stop the transmission of Covid-19 in their stores, according to leading county councillor Tim Hutchings.

And – says the council’s executive member for public health and prevention – they need to do more to protect festive shoppers.

Covid-19 levels are now higher in the region than at any time since the start of the pandemic.

Coronavirus stock image

And data shows that shops are among the places where the Covid-19 virus is most likely to be spread in Hertfordshire.

Now – as festive shoppers prepare to do their biggest grocery shop of the year – Cllr Hutchings has highlighted the risks at some supermarkets.

He has urged shoppers to visit the stores at quieter times of day.

And speaking at a media briefing today (Wednesday) he said there are supermarkets that need to do more – even if it increases their costs.

He says supermarkets have a responsibility to make sure stores are not over-crowded and that shoppers socially distance from each other.

He also says it’s should be up to staff to make sure customers are wearing face masks and that they use hand sanitizer as they enter.

“We are already concerned about infection in retail areas and unless we are very careful I think this is going to get even worse,” he said.

“. . . I think [supermarkets] need to do more to keep customers safe.”

Cllr Hutchings suggests that infection control measures in some supermarkets have dropped in recent weeks – pointing to experiences where tables with hand sanitizer had been pushed out of the way.

“Next week the queues at the tills are going to get bigger and bigger,” he said. “I think they need to do more to ensure distance is maintained.

“I know that’s a real challenge and a lot easier to say than to do.

“I think supermarkets need to invest in making sure that it is done. If that means investing in making sure its done, if that means more cost, then frankly so be it.”

At the briefing it was noted that there were some stores – large and small – that were implementing measures such as socially distancing and hand sanitising more successfully.

Speaking more generally about the Christmas period, where restrictions will be temporarily relaxed to allow three households to meet together, Cllr Hutchings urged residents to take care.

“I would like to reinforce the messages to everybody about taking care this Christmas,” he said.

“Just because you ‘can’ doesn’t mean to say you ‘should’.

“Everybody needs to assess what they are doing, how they are doing it and the possible dangers of doing so.”

Meanwhile Dr Jane Halpin, chief executive of Herts and West Essex ICS said that the judgements around Christmas were ‘really difficult’.

She recognised that people would want to see each other and how important that was for emotional wellbeing.

But she urged people to ‘think long and hard’ about putting elderly relatives at risk – and not to assume that previous Christmas norms could be observed without their being some risk.

“The virus doesn’t know it’s Christmas, so all the usual precautions should be observed,” she said.