2020 has been a tough year for all of us, but life is slowly returning to ‘normal’. Many restaurants are already open, the traffic jams are back, and malls are reopening. If you’ve been waiting since March to resume your social life and shopping, this is welcome news. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic is far from over and we all need to comply with safety regulations to make this work. In addition to cooperating with authorities and mall staff, you can also take your own precautions to minimize the risk of infection.
Safe Shopping Practices During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Keep Your Distance
A safety distance is no longer applicable solely to vehicular traffic; it’s also the rule for pedestrians and shoppers. Maintaining a 2 meter or 6 feet distance from shoppers, sales staff, and cashiers isn’t just advisable, it’s recommended, and may not even be enough (1). This is because the highest risk of infection comes from inhaling airborne droplets exhaled by infected individuals. These droplets don’t travel far and settle on surfaces, so maintaining some distance can lower the risk of infection.
If a store is crowded and you won’t be able to maintain safe distance, skip that store or visit at some other time.
Only Enter Stores with Mask Mandates
If you notice that a shop isn’t enforcing mask mandates for shoppers and employees, just don’t enter or walk out of that store. Most malls and stores within malls have strict policies requiring mask use, but enforcement may not be uniform. Wearing a mask is the best way to protect yourself and it is also the most effective method of limiting the spread of the virus (2).
Avoid Touching Surfaces
As we mentioned earlier, infected droplets eventually settle on surfaces. The COVID-19 virus can survive on some surfaces for a day or even longer, making it important to limit contact or exposure to high traffic surfaces (3). High traffic surfaces would include basket and trolley handles, elevator buttons, escalator railings, and so on.
Use Gloves and Sanitizers
While you should limit direct contact with surfaces, some amount of physical contact is just unavoidable. Taking this into account, you should try to wear disposable gloves while shopping in malls and supermarkets. At the same time, remember not to touch your face without first discarding the gloves and washing your hands.
If you’re not comfortable wearing gloves, you can also carry a hand sanitizer and make sure to use it after you come in contact with surfaces and before you touch your face or handle food.
Reduce Personal Interactions
When you’re in the mall, look for stores and retailers that have well-organized displays. This will minimize the need for shopping assistance and that means less interaction with sales staff. For the same reason, steer clear of any stores and aisles that have high traffic.
Opt for Contactless Payments
Whether you pay by cash or card, both forms of payment require direct interaction with cashier and contact with possibly contaminated surfaces – cash and pin pads. Today, almost all stores in malls offer contactless payment options through mobile wallets, contactless cards, and other apps.
In addition to the safeguards listed above, you can also follow these tips:
- Call ahead of your visit to find out how busy malls are and avoid visiting during peak hours
- Avoid using touch devices that are installed for customers at malls
- Try to use just one hand to pick up and examine products so that you have one free hand that is uncontaminated
- Remember that everyone is trying to adjust to the times so don’t make it tough for others by shopping in groups
Most importantly, do your bit to support and cooperate with service providers, whether housekeeping staff or store assistants at the mall. These are high risk jobs and they are doing us a service.