British Shops Plan to ‘Quarantine’ Shoes and Books Touched by Customers

A tourist wears a surgical face mask as she walks past a red telephone box in central London on March 2, 2020. - Britain's Prime Minister Prime Minister on Monday chaired an emergency COBRA meeting on the coronavirus outbreak, after the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United …
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday that all ‘non-essential’ shops can reopen in England on June 15th, with retailers planning on quarantining items touched by customers.

“I want people to be confident that they can shop safely, provided they follow the social distancing rules for all premises,” Prime Minister Johnson said, outlining that shops will be obliged also to enforce new hygiene standards.

Retailers have been told to maintain social distancing, make available hand sanitation for staff and customers, limit the number of people in premises, and restrict human contact wherever possible.

The government guidelines also advise shops to “limit[] customer handling of merchandise” including the “rotation of high-touch stock”.

In effect reducing Britons to children by telling them not to touch things in shops, cabinet minister Michael Gove told BBC Breakfast on Tuesday that the shopping habits that “people may have grown used to in pre-Covid days” have to end.

“So when it comes to touching and testing goods, when it comes to trying on clothing, when it comes to trying make-up and so on, that all of us exercise restraint in not doing that and recognise that as these stores reopen, it is a new normal,” Mr Gove said.

One guideline has resulted in plans for a peculiar New Normal in Coronavirus UK: quarantining items touched by people. Shop keepers are advised to store items that have been returned or tried on “in a container or separate room for 72 hours”.

Kurt Geiger has said that it will quarantine shoes tried on for 24 hours before another customer can try them on, while they have told staff to wear gloves and masks at all times, with cash registers behind perspex screens.

Before the measures were outlined, major British book retailer Waterstones announced that it would quarantine for three days any unbought books that had come into human contact.

The government had previously advised that the virus cannot survive on post and packages — which, like books, are mostly made of paper — and Waterstones was likewise advised the same, but said in late-May that it would still quarantine their books for 72 hours.

James Daunt, head of Waterstones, said this month that “book customers are very nice people who behave well”, so will likely follow the rules.

“We will still have tables displaying books, but we will have systems in place to ensure books that are browsed do not remain on sale. We will ask customers that pick up a book to put it down on a trolley that we can then wheel away,” Mr Daunt said.

Britain is just the latest country in Europe to introduce bizarre shopping rituals under the New Normal. The Dutch have reopened cafes with customers eating in greenhouses, while Italian shops take clients’ temperatures upon entry. And only in Germany could getting stuck in traffic become a party, after organisers staged a drive-in rave to maintain social distancing.


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