Officials checking-up on Covid measures at supermarkets in Hertfordshire

Data shows that supermarkets are one of the most common places where residents are likely to be exposed to the virus

Thursday, 11th March 2021, 9:09 am
Updated Thursday, 11th March 2021, 9:10 am

Officials have been making a series of unannounced visits to supermarkets in Hertfordshire – to check they are complying with measures designed to limit the spread of Covid-19.

Data shows that supermarkets are one of the most common places where residents are likely to be exposed to the virus.

And at a media briefing on Wednesday, March 10, director of public health Jim McManus said that – without care – they could become ‘one of the high sources of infection’ going forward.

Residents are being urged to continue to follow government guidelines (C) Hertfordshire County Council

He said work was already ongoing to draw-up a new accreditation scheme for supermarkets.

And he revealed officials had been making unannounced visits to supermarkets in the county.

During those visits they have been looking at the availability of hand sanitiser and the use of face coverings.

And they have been looking at whether staff are taking the necessary measures.

But Mr McManus stresses that it is up to shoppers too – as well as supermarkets – to ‘keep their wits about them’.

Pointing to the need for supermarkets and their customers to work together, he said: “It is great that they fed the nation, but actually we have to operate safely, because supermarkets will be – if we are not careful – one of the high sources of infection going forward. And everybody has to play their part really.

“[…] it is both residents and supermarkets together if we are going to get out of this. We have to be a team if we are going to get out of this.”

Public health officers do not have the powers to close a supermarket, but they can issue orders to ensure that they take action.

And Mr McManus says ‘several’ supermarkets have already come close to that.

At the briefing, executive member for public health Cllr Tim Hutchings recognised the actions being taken by supermarkets.

And he stressed the need for shoppers to take the necessary steps to avoid the spread of the virus too.

Acknowledging his past criticism of supermarkets, he said they had done quite a lot recently ‘to get their act together’. And he stressed that they could not ‘do it on their own’.

He suggested it was easy for people to get into ‘certain environments’ and to ‘forget’ themselves – maybe charging around in a supermarket to get shopping done.

And he said: “I guess our plea is for everyone to take one step back and just to think what they are doing when they are doing it – and perhaps choose a different path.”

During the briefing – held just two days after the easing of measures to allow the full re-opening of schools and limited care home visiting – Mr McManus highlighted the decline in the number of Covid cases in the county.

However he did acknowledge there are some areas in the county where the decrease has been slower than they would like.

And he stressed that the current number of cases is higher than in September last year, when they were causing some concern.

Nevertheless he said he believed a third surge in cases in Hertfordshire could be avoided, if residents continue to do their ‘bit’.

Mr McManus did acknowledge that planning was underway for any third surge and warned that trying to ‘pull away’ too quickly the virus would resurge.

But he said he believed a further surge in cases in Hertfordshire could be avoided, if residents continue to do their ‘bit’.

“We are planning for it – but I am hopeful it won’t happen,” he said.

“So my attitude is plan for the worst, but do everything you can to work for the best.

“I choose to believe that if the residents of Hertfordshire do what they are doing – and keep doing what they are doing – and we do our bit, we can avoid that."