Wednesday 2 December, 2020

Back to normal: Supermarkets want hours extended

As Government continues with its phased reopening of T&T and businesses slowly resume activities, supermarkets are calling for a return to their hours of operation pre-COVID-19 restrictions.

Supermarkets, like pharmacies, have been functioning at limited hours since April 7 as part of Government’s measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

But, President of the Supermarket Association of Trinidad and Tobago, Rajiv Diptee, believes it’s time for supermarkets to revert to their original hours to better serve their customers.

He said the reduced hours brought into effect with the first series of public health ordinances made sense as many non-essential workers were still at home as stay at home measures were in effect.

Now, with many workers returning to work, that situation – and customers’ demand – has shifted.

Diptee said there’s an after-work rush as workers try to do their grocery shopping as quickly as they can before the supermarkets close up for the day.

“As phases continue to be unlocked one by one – the next unlocking will see bars and gyms reopening – the reality is the traffic on the nation’s roads is now back to normal with public service employees, those in the manufacturing sector and more returning to working.  

So, those in both the public and private sector are now hitting stores hard between 4 pm and 6 pm.”

He said this influx of hasty shoppers has presented a bit of a challenge for the supermarkets.

“What we have now is a cluster of customers not engaging in social distancing guidelines as they are hustling to get their groceries.

Everyone is back out to work and we need to be able to provide safety for customers as they shop. It needs to be factored in that all these people with different household and nutritional needs need to find time to get their shopping done.”

He said while some may argue that Government has not readjusted the supermarkets’ hours as a means of discouraging people from staying out late unnecessarily, restaurants and pharmacies are open until 8 pm.

With the lockdown being eased, Diptee appealed for supermarkets to have a reasonable extension of their opening hours to allow customers to shop comfortably.

“At least let the opening hours return to 8 pm,” he urged.

Meanwhile, Diptee said customers can rest assured that sanitisation protocols currently in place will continue. Trolleys and hand baskets in frequent use will be sanitised throughout the day.

He noted that OSHA officials and public health officers have been visiting stores to conduct assessments. In light of COVID-19, OSHA is now conducting assessments twice a year to ensure operations and facilities are up to scratch.

And, as per a recommendation from the Chief Medical Officer, the wearing of masks and observing of physical distancing will continue to be a requirement at supermarkets for the rest of the year.

Supermarkets will also continue to limit the number of shoppers in their stores.

Diptee commended supermarkets such as Massy Stores for ensuring that there were signs up in the stores to remind customers to adhere to the guidelines set out by health officials. He encouraged supermarket owners to ensure that they were doing the same.

He said: “A key part of supermarkets’ work in managing COVID-19 was educating customers. Now, they’re demanding that customers and staff wear masks and follow guidelines. We inculcated that behaviour and now they follow it. So, we’re asking that they continue to keep it up.”

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