SUPERMARKETS in Spain have shown themselves to be exemplary in terms of the organisation whilst the country remains in a ‘State of Alert’ over the Covid-19 Coronavirus – and some have set aside early-morning slots limited to the over-65s.
In Carrefour, only adults of pension age are allowed in between 07.00 and 08.00 – in fact, the store has started opening two hours early precisely for that purpose.
Most supermarkets, including Mercadona and Mas y Mas, have now reduced their hours and close at 20.00 instead of 21.30 (in the case of the former) and 21.00 (for the latter).
Staff have been diligently following the health authority’s recommended procedures and disinfecting every surface, plus shopping trolleys and baskets, and even the card machine each time a customer pays, contactless operations included.
Employees wear masks and gloves, and customers are required to put on gloves normally dispensed in the fruit and vegetable section, as soon as they enter.
Limited numbers are allowed in at once, and those waiting to go in are called one at a time as the last person leaves, as well as being required to stand at least two metres apart whilst in the queue.
Shelves continue to be understocked, however – although supplies are guaranteed and the limited number of customers on the premises at any time are discouraged from stockpiling, most are still bulk-buying to a certain extent on the basis that this will mean fewer occasions when they need to leave their houses.
It is likely, therefore, that the limited availability of goods will soon ease once everyone has filled up with what they require for the short-term future and has limited further need for the contents of the replenished shelves.
Although the discipline is exemplary in Spanish supermarkets at present, some of it has actually proven unnecessary: The general public themselves are taking the temporary changes seriously and automatically keeping themselves separate from other customers and staff, and collecting gloves at the entrance without having to be told.
Not everyone wears masks because pharmacies have mostly run out, although many people improvise with DIY masks or by wrapping a scarf around their faces.
Shops which are not permitted to open, or whose owners have opted not to do so, frequently carry handwritten signs explaining why, signed off with the hashtag #QuedateEnCasa (‘Stay at home’) and many with other, encouraging messages to the public to the effect of ‘stay safe’ and ‘keep your spirits up’.
A large number have included mobile phone numbers or the company social media data so they can be contacted in case a customer has a pressing need.
Area health departments have praised the public for ‘being so responsible’ and ‘pulling together for the greater good’, and have largely been impressed by how patients who know their needs are not urgent are putting off visiting their GP or out-of-hours walk-in clinics, in order to free up staff to attend to those infected with Covid-19.
Even though the community cannot interact in-person – meeting even a close friend or family member in the street means a brief wave and then moving on, staying at least two metres apart – media and social media comments and headlines, and information from official sources, show that the spirit of a joint purpose and a need for cooperation is strong.
The self-discipline seen across Spain in the last few days is equally as automatic and as tight in areas which have barely been affected by the virus.
Over half those affected are based in Madrid, and the majority of towns have very few cases at all – often as few as two or three, or none at all – but the public, in general, is acting with the same level of seriousness in every municipality in their determination to leave nothing to chance or to carelessness and ensure the virus is fully contained.
Although the virus is mostly merely unpleasant, rather than deadly, in the young and physically healthy, it is a serious risk to life for those with pre-existing conditions, the elderly and middle-aged.
For this reason, even those in the low-risk group who may not suffer any permanent harm if they caught the virus are extremely concerned not to in any case, lest they pass it onto someone for whom it could be much more dangerous.