Monday, March 30, 2020


I am circulating this letter to our local shops to help them, and us, to stay healthy.

In this Covid-19 pandemic we are obliged to stay at home except when going to buy food or medicines. People will tend to have an unconscious belief that since going to these shops is permitted, it is therefore safe. In fact, these places are now the major locations where virus transmission will take place.

We all owe a debt of gratitude to our shop and store-keepers for maintaining a vital service, so it is in everyone’s best interests to minimise the risk of virus transfer between staff and customers.
Here are a few practical things to keep in mind:

1.       Invisible droplets leave the mouth all the time as we breathe and speak. Exchange of these droplets will be most important at the till counter. A clear plastic screen between shopkeeper and customer will intercept these droplets. There is a suggested DIY design at the foot of this letter. The screen will need to be disinfected on both sides with a cloth as often as possible.

2.       Masks do reduce the range of these droplets. They are more to protect the person to whom the masked individual is speaking, but they do stop us touching our face with potentially contaminated hands. Masks can turn into an infection risk in their own right, so they need to be used, removed and disposed of carefully. Home-made cloth masks are better than disposable paper masks because they allow disposables to go to front line medical staff. Here is a good design :

sSupermarket workers should wear masks in order to avoid putting droplets onto the goods they handle. They should also wear gloves, and sanitise the gloves as often as possible in a viricidal solution.

3.       The surface of the counter is a potential transmission site. Have a cloth soaked in an effective disinfectant and give the counter a wipe as often as practical, ideally after each customer. If you wear nitrile gloves, they will tend to be sterilised each time you wipe – and it will save roughened hands!

4.       It is a good idea to create 2 metre squares on the floor with tape to remind people to maintain social distancing.

5.       If it is not raining, many shops now ask customers to wait outside on a one in, one out basis, in order to avoid crowding inside.

6.       Anyone can be carrying and spreading virus while feeling perfectly well. This is especially the case with children.

7.       Ask customers not to touch goods before purchasing.

8.       The virus can last for three hours in indoor air, so small shops may develop a significant viral load. You may be able to reduce this by inducing a flow of air by opening doors and windows. Make sure that air is not blowing from the shop into your living space.

There suggestions are offered in addition to any existing official advice, and not in any way instead of official advice.

Thank you for maintaining your vital service.


Here's how to make a clear plastic screen:

We need rectangles of clear plastic sheet, say 1m *1.5 m, with a thickness of say 0.2 - 0.5 mm. Like the window panels you find in a camping tent. (Even cling film is worth a try)

Take the panel, fold it over top and bottom and stick it down to form a pocket. Locate a rod of wood, plastic or metal into either pocket.

Tie cords to either end of the upper rod, and attach these cords to the ceiling with hooks so that the screen is located in the space between customer and shopworker.

Clean the screen with disinfectant as often as possible. (This is probably not possible with cling film)

Morrisons are doing this already. All our smaller shops need it.

If you have an old tent in the shed, see if you can liberate a panel, and bring a screen into existence. 

You might save a few lives with it.

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