The Leader of Solihull Council, alongside other West Midlands council leaders, is calling on supermarkets and all businesses that continue to remain open during this national lockdown to step-up their Covid-19 safety measures to help combat the rising surge of infections.
With cases continuing to rise across the region and the UK entering a new lockdown, people are now required to stay at home except for a handful of permitted reasons - one of which is to shop for basic necessities.
Supermarkets and some other retailers will remain open and the leaders of Birmingham, Coventry, Sandwell, Solihull, Dudley, Walsall and Wolverhampton councils believe the retailers have a major role to play in keeping people safe over the coming weeks and months.
The seven leaders, who wrote to Business Secretary Alok Sharma MP in November expressing concerns at the easing of safety measures in supermarkets, have now called for urgent action to protect staff and shoppers.
They have called for:
- The re-introduction of one-way systems to help maintain social distancing in all retail settings.
- Improved enforcement of safety measures with COVID marshals on-site throughout opening hours.
- Strong Infection Prevention and Control and messaging in-store to maintain the 2m distance between customers.
- Strong action to combat spread amongst staff whist on site (both in public areas and in break areas) including encouraging staff to test regularly through the asymptomatic LFD community testing offer.
- Mandatory measures to ensure that symptomatic staff stay at home (with adequate financial support), get tested, self-isolate AND that their close contacts also do this.
- Clear staff training and tight compliance in store (mask wearing; reduce numbers in store, customer flow (one-way aisles as much as possible), sanitising touch points and shared baskets and trolleys).
The Leader of Solihull Council, Councillor Ian Courts, said:
“For some time I have been raising the issue of social distancing and safety in our supermarkets, as frankly in my experience not enough is now being done to keep shoppers apart and to ensure staff are safe. One-way systems, in particular, help to promote social distancing and stop people bumping into each other, they are now so much more important with this more infectious strain of the virus.
“I recognise that during the first lockdown supermarkets and their staff worked extremely hard to introduce measures to keep shoppers and workers safe. But over time some of them have become lax.
“Now we are faced with this much more easily transmitted version of the virus, we need supermarkets once again to be as vigilant and focused as they were last year. That entails better enforcement of the rules around social distancing, including the reintroduction of one-way systems, strict requirement for shoppers and staff to wear face coverings, and facilities to allow hand washing and sanitising.
"These are very worrying times and we all have a role to play to keep people safe. Although people must once again stay at home as much as possible, many of us will still need to be visiting supermarkets for essentials, so it's vital that stores are as safe as possible."