WITH the guidelines issued by the health ministry on Friday aiming to protect vulnerable groups of people against the coronavirus, many retailers are upping their measures to ensure the safety of their employees.
People over 65 years of age are considered to be at risk, as well as people with chronic respiratory, cardiac and neurological diseases, and with those with immunosuppression.
Pregnant women, obese people and workers in health care facilities are also considered highly at risk.
The advice for the above mentioned are to avoid unnecessary travel, busy public and social spaces, visits to hospitalised patients and to apply hand hygiene and avoid touching their face.
The measures in place are making it necessary for retailers that deal with a large amount of people on a daily basis to rethink their schedules and their rotas.
Supermarket giant AlphaMega has already started to put in place special measures to cope with the outbreak of the virus.
First of all, they decided to reduce the number of tables and chairs at their cafeteria and they decided to send home employees who belong to vulnerable groups.
They made hand sanitizers available for customers to use while they shop and have also started packaging all the bread at their bakery departments.
In addition to that, they established a safety health plan in case one of their employees shows symptoms of coronavirus at work.
“AlphaMega is setting a very important example to stores around the country,” Marios Antoniou, president of the retailers’ association in the country, told Cyprus Mail.
“I know for a fact that they also have a special team in place tasked with disinfecting shopping carts multiple times during the day.
“It’s the first time our country and indeed the world is having to deal with such a situation. In times like this, we all have to step up safety measures. I’m glad to see more and more stores are taking precautions.”
An employee working at a popular grill in Nicosia said “since we, the employees, handle food all day and every, we can automatically be considered at risk in my opinion.”
Despite that, she said she hasn’t yet seen a decline in people coming to buy food from the store, especially during lunchtime, when she claimed the place it’s packed as usual
However, she assured they never have more than 75 people together in the premises, “so we’re definitely complying with the guidelines set by the health ministry.”
“In addition to that, every employee gets his temperature checked in the morning before we open our doors to the customers. We have also been advised to change our gloves often, at least five times per day, since we handle food. We’re being safe, it’s more important than ever nowadays.”
The employee also said health ministry’s list of vulnerable categories of people might create some problems to the store’s daily operations.
“We saw the list and there are surely people working here that belong to a vulnerable category, either because they are obese or because they are more than 65 years-old.
“We will be understaffed once we start reinforcing the measures, like many other stores in the country. But maybe now we will start seeing less people coming here, since I think everyone started to take the whole situation with coronavirus more seriously.”
However, not everyone belonging to a vulnerable category seems to be aware of the risks involved when finding themselves in a crowded place.
An employee at a supermarket in Aglandjja said despite the fact that the decree imposing a maximum of 75 people in a public place does not affect supermarkets, she is worried about the safety of the customers for a specific reason.
“Most of them are elderly, therefore much more at risk. They don’t seem to be aware of the fact that it would be better for them to stay at home.
“The problem is that the majority of them do not have anyone they can call and ask to shop for them, so they are kind of forced to come to the supermarket.
“We are being extra careful these days and we wash our hands as much as we can, but, even if it’s bad for business, I hope to see less people in the store in the coming days.”