Coronavirus: Supermarket shoppers 'keep calm' and queue

By Emma Kasprzak
BBC News

Sainsbury's in Heaton Park Manchester 26/03/20
Image caption,
Shoppers at Heaton Park in Manchester showing how it's done

The supermarket shop suddenly looks a little different. So how are people managing under the new restrictions?

Britons are known around the world for our queuing skills, and it would seem we still love to line up even when maintaining social distance.

Social media has been full of people sharing their experience of shopping while keeping 2m (6ft 6in) apart.

While supermarket bosses have been sending guides to the new shopping etiquette designed to protect employees and customers.

Image source, Kassi McFarlane-Ellis
Image caption,
Supermarkets have introduced floor markers to show customers how to queue while social isolating

In an email to Asda customers, CEO Roger Burnley said new measures included extra staff at the front of stores limiting the number of shoppers inside, distance floor-markers reminding them to keep 2m (6ft 6in) apart and Perspex screens on checkouts.

He also asked people to only touch items they intended to purchase.

So no more picking through fruit and veg to find the best ones, or grabbing a packet and reading the back before deciding to add it to your trolley.

Image caption,
Thursday's scene outside Asda in the Kings Heath area of Birmingham

On Thursday, outside Asda in Kings Heath, Birmingham, a queue of shoppers snaked back along the High Street.

Those waiting could be seen keeping a safe distance, and waiting patiently to be allowed inside.

A staff member on the door said a maximum of 75 shoppers were allowed inside at any time.

Its a similar story across all of the big supermarket brands, with floor-markers and Perspex screens becoming as familiar a sight as an unexpected item in the bagging area.

Image source, Kassi McFarlane-Ellis
Image caption,
Kassi McFarlane-Ellis said she was impressed by how people shopped in Wellington

But what is it like to step inside a supermarket while under lockdown?

Kassi McFarlane-Ellis went shopping in Morrison's in Wellington, in Shropshire on Tuesday.

She shared some pictures of the new store measures on Facebook, including cars spaced out in the car park and floor-markers showing people where to stand at the checkout.

"It was calm, well-stocked, people were adhering to social distancing and the queues went quickly," she wrote.

"Also, the music was BANGIN!!! Well done Wellington Morrison's and well done people of Wellington."

Image source, Kassi McFarlane Ellis
Image caption,
Its not just shoppers that are keeping apart at this supermarket in Wellington

Adrian Barrowdale said he had felt nervous before a shopping trip in Manchester but was relieved by how well the supermarket managed shoppers.

He said: "I've just been to Aldi in Sharston and have to say I was really impressed.

"It was queuing out the door, which gave me the fear, but it turns out they are just doing one in, one out, and keeping no more than approx 30 people in the store at any one time.

"It was very quiet, very peaceful and well-stocked."

Image caption,
The scene at Tesco in Stretford, Manchester, on Friday as shoppers prepare for the weekend

BBC Radio Shropshire journalist Elaine Muir, who is on maternity leave, went to two different supermarkets in Shrewsbury to shop for herself, her parents, and a friend having to self-isolate.

She said Aldi was a particularly good experience, while shoppers at Tesco could use wipes and spray from a station at the entrance to clean trolley handles before their shop.

"The mood felt very respectful. Most people were very good at observing social distancing, even though it's difficult in aisles sometimes," she said.

She said a majority of shoppers were following the rules but there were some exceptions.

"I saw people in Tesco standing next to each other to chat, rather than two trolley distances.

"And at one point when I was picking some veg an older gent reached over my head to pick something up!"

Ms Muir said it felt "slightly odd" when she spotted a neighbour and the pair had a quick chat while standing 2m apart.

But the hardest thing, she said, was dropping off her parents' shopping without being able to hug them or go in for a cuppa.