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expert comment on SARS-CoV-2 transmission within supermarkets

A comment from Professor Ashley Woodcock on transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in supermarkets.


Prof Ashley Woodcock, Professor of Respiratory Medicine at the University of Manchester, said:

“A renewed focus on hygiene and preventing cross infection through contact during supermarket shopping could be an effective additional intervention to current Government guidance.

“Supermarkets could be a place where there is a risk of cross-infection through direct contact. Hygiene standards across different supermarkets vary widely. Gel stations are present at the entrance but are not compulsory and so may be commonly ignored. These stations are not always present at the exit which would be useful to kill any virus picked up in the shop.

“We know the virus persists on surfaces and so there are various times where this could provide a risk of transmission. To reduce this risk, checkout staff should routinely sanitise between dealing with each customer as they will be handling shop items and store/credit cards. The credit card machine could also be sanitised between each use. Staff should regularly replace their facemask with a new one throughout the day. Staff working in chiller sections with thermal gloves could be required to regularly change their gloves. Additionally, shoppers often examine sell-by dates or prod the vegetables and avocados, and then put goods back on the shelf, this could be discouraged.

“It would be useful to know what training staff are being given to help them reduce the risk of contracting and passing on the virus. What training do staff have to minimise cross infection? What training do staff have to prevent faecal-oral spread – do they wash their hands with soap for 30 seconds after using the toilet?

“In any event – Improved food hygiene should be a long-term goal, irrespective of this COVID epidemic.



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