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Ensuring health and safety of supermarket workers

Ensuring health and safety of supermarket workers

The police checked the situation in a supermarket in Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta recently to avoid panic buying sparked by COVID-19 pandemic. ANTARA/HO- Kebayoran Baru Police/am.

Amid the government-mandated physical distancing order to contain coronavirus transmission, Jakarta City appears to have slowed down.

As the central and provincial governments enacted the large-scale social restriction measure (PSBB), the usually bustling streets now wear a desolate look and public places, such as shopping malls and recreational spots, are vacant.

One of South Jakarta’s Town Square establishments appeared starkly different from what it would appear on a normal day. On Tuesday, merely days before the PSBB was enacted, the two-story building was filled with food and beverage tenants, yet barely any of them were open. Hardly anyone was spotted walking down the hallway where the restaurants were.

In its place, lights and crowds were seen coming from one side of the building, where the supermarket was located. Temperature checks were conducted upon entry into the store, as the security personnel hovered an infra-red thermometer over every customer’s forehead.

Grocery stores, including large supermarkets and smaller chain retail food stores, are among those considered as essential businesses permitted to remain open during the large-scale social restriction period.

“We stay open every day, but there are changes in the operating hours,” one of the supermarket workers at one of the cashier counters stated.

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“On some days, we see more customers coming in (during physical distancing), while on other days, the number of visitors is relatively normal,” she pointed out.

The shop layout had been altered to ensure customers maintain a minimum required distance between themselves, including by installing marks on the cashier queue lines.

The cashier workers are also equipped with rubber gloves, surgical masks, and hand sanitizer bottles on the counters.

“We also provide online services for customers, so they can shop without having to visit the store and feel safer while buying items of daily need,” she remarked.

Some other shops in the capital city had applied different measures, including by limiting the number of shoppers at their stores and having incoming ones queue outside of their doors.

Measures adopted by store managements are not only aimed at ensuring the safety of customers but also the workers.

In the midst of calls from the public and officials to ensure protection of medical workers on the frontline in the fight against the spread of COVID-19, the people also urge that those working in the essential sectors receive protection and appreciation since they had to forego their tasks at home.

Under the pressure of working in the midst of the pandemic, netizens have also called for fair treatment of retail workers. Twitter user, Anggita, brought the matter to light as she urged shoppers to not panic, thereby leading them to mistreat workers.

“Be nice and polite. Do not mistreat them for items not being in stock. They are doing their best to ensure that everyone’s basic needs are fulfilled,” she emphasized.

Customers’ participation

Another worker serving customers in a bakery chain shop spoke of his health and safety concerns, as they still had to work during the pandemic that had turned into a global crisis.

“We do what we can by washing our hands, wearing protective gear, and following procedures,” he stated.

However, he believed that merely making efforts, though offers some extent of solace, is not sufficient.

“We also place our trust in the customers, who come in and out of the bakery. I hope they stay sanitized as well, so both the customers and the workers would do their part,” he stated.

Community response

The Ministry of Manpower had earlier released several guidelines for companies in the essential sectors, where workers cannot work from home and are required to come to work on a daily basis.

“Measures should be applied to ensure workers are protected while simultaneously maintaining productivity. We urge company leaders to establish a plan in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic aimed at minimizing the risk of transmission in the workplace and preparing a business continuity plan,” Minister of Manpower Ida Fauziyah said on April 1, as published on the Ministry’s official page.

Over and above the procedures urged by the government, community response is perhaps one of the most crucial aspects in responding to the spread of the coronavirus.

With regard to supermarket and food store workers, all need to apply measures actively to ensure that everyone, including employees, employers, and customers, remain protected from the invisible danger lurking before all in the form of COVID-19.

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