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Do we need gloves and masks for food shopping?



Should we wearing masks and gloves when food shopping?

The current advice is that you don’t need to wear a mask or gloves when you go food shopping.

We'll discuss the latest advice here so you can make the best decision for you.

What rules should we be following to keep us safe when food shopping?

Follow the supermarkets individual rules, most include keeping 2m away from customers and staff. Most also have a one-way system in place to further implement social distancing. The number of customers allowed in has been restricted and depending when you go, you can expect to queue – may be worthwhile taking an umbrella!

Many large supermarkets have cleaning stations as you enter the store to disinfect your trolley or basket. The advice is to use this service. Before you go to the supermarket you should wash your hands or use hand sanitiser if hand washing isn’t possible.

When you come out of the supermarket you should use hand sanitiser again and then wash your hands when you get home.




Washing your hands, you probably know this but……..

Are you washing your hands properly? – check out this video on the NHS website.

I'm sure you've heard by now that we should be washing your hands for 2 minutes to protect yourself from Covid-19, which is approximately singing the happy birthday song twice.

Frequent hand washing washes off your body’s natural oils, this can cause skin to become dry and potentially crack. After washing your hands at home or at work apply moisturiser.




Only touch supermarket items you intend to buy?

Some supermarkets have stricter rules such as Asda who have said customers should only touch the items they are going to buy.


How to shop safely at the supermarket?

Independent body Which? published guidance on how to shop safely at the supermarket during the pandemic (8/4/2020).

The 7 changes supermarkets have made to keep you safe:

1. Floor markings have been introduced to keep customers 2m (6ft) away from each other and staff. Some smaller supermarkets are verbally asking customers to stay 2m apart.

2. One-way system to walk around the store, this is to reduce the risk of people coming in opposite directions and bumping into each other.

3. Limiting the number of people allowed in the store at once and introducing queuing to gain entry.

4. Screens have been installed to protect staff working as cashiers, this is because keeping 2m apart at the checkout would be tricky.

5. Change in operating hours and setting aside time slots for NHS staff, vulnerable and elderly customers.

6. Increase in cleaning in-store and also introducing hand sanitising facilities for both staff and customers.

7. Only one adult from each household should go to the supermarket, where possible.

7 things you can do to make your supermarket visit safer during the pandemic

(published by ?Which);

1. Keep to the 2m rule.

2. Plan your food shop for the entire week and buy everything you need. Those self-isolating should use the delivery slots available from supermarkets.

3. Wash your hands before visiting the supermarket and when you get home. Always using soap for at least 20 seconds.

4. Only touch food you are going to buy.

5. Only buy what you need, this is why making a meal plan can be really handy. Especially in-demand items such as flour, toilet roll and soap.

6. Pay by card and use contactless card payment where possible.

7. Remember to be kind, to staff and other customers. A smile and a thank you can make all the difference.



What's the World Health Organisation (WHO) advice on shopping?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) have advised that you should keep at least 2m away from others when shopping. You should avoid touching your face, nose, eyes and mouth. If available, you should use the facilities to sanitise the handles of the shopping trolley or basket. Once back home you should wash your hands and then again once you’ve put the shopping away.

Do we know whether Covid-19 (Coronavirus) can be transferred by supermarket packaging?

The WHO also said that currently there is no confirmation that Covid-19 can be transmitted through food or food packaging.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) have also said it is unlikely that you can catch Coronavirus from food and currently it’s not known to be transmitted by food packaging.




I’ve seen people wearing masks and gloves in the supermarket?

You may have seen some people wearing masks when out and about, including while shopping. The mask typically seen is a ‘surgical mask’.

Whilst there are some benefits such as preventing those that are symptomatic from transmitting it to others via droplets when sneezing and coughing.

However, if you are symptomatic, you should be self-isolating and not visiting the supermarket.

Are some countries advising the wearing of masks?

Some countries are advising wearing surgical masks, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US are recommending people to wear cloth over their face in places where social distance is difficult.


What about the UK?

The UK government is not advising people, other than health workers to wear masks. These are people working with those with Covid-19 and those with Coronavirus symptoms.



Could this advice change?

This advice was correct as of 28th April but may change in the coming weeks.



What does WHO (World Health Organisation) say?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is advising that health care workers should wear masks as well as those who are unwell and experiencing symptoms and those caring for people who are believed to have Covid-19.


Could wearing masks actually do more harm?

There are a few issues with wearing masks such as they may offer a false sense of protection and may indirectly cause poorer hygiene. Masks can become contaminated when touching them, putting them on and removing them. Mass use of surgical masks could cause a shortage of where they are needed most such as in hospitals and nursing homes. If you do choose to wear a mask, It’s important to remember to not touch the mask or take it on and off whilst out shopping.


What about homemade masks?

Many people have been making masks at home but many of these aren’t made with the right material offering less protection. More particles can get through cloth masks versus surgical masks.

Make sure you do your research on how to make these as protective as possible.



What about NHS 'respirator' masks?

Comparing this to respirator masks used by the NHS, in the UK the standard is the FFP3 respirator. These can block out the majority of small airborne particles. These should be saved for front line workers. You still need to make sure the mask fits properly and avoid touching your nose, eyes and mouth when taking the masks off, followed by washing your hands afterwards.



If I choose to wear a mask, how can I do this safely?

The World Health Organisation has published guidance on how to put on and remove a mask, check it out here.




Could wearing gloves actually do more harm than good?

Currently wearing gloves isn’t recommended in the UK when visiting the supermarket. In the clinical setting gloves are changed between handling each different thing, however, when you wear gloves to the supermarket and you touch your face you can be transmitting germs and also if you touch your phone, bag, keys and bank card while shopping. Wearing gloves should never be a substitute for washing hands before and after shopping.

From an environmental angle, wearing gloves unnecessarily can contribute to our plastic waste, surgical gloves are biodegradable.

If I decide to wear gloves, how can I do this safely?

If you decide you’d like to wear gloves check out this handy guide on how to put them on and remove them correctly here.


In summary, wearing gloves or masks can cause you to be more at risk of picking up the virus, unless they are worn and removed correctly, whilst still hand washing and following guidelines for each individual supermarket you visit.

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