SAINSBURY’S has today offered all NHS and social care staff dedicated shopping hours across three days each week.
The supermarket giant has rolled out the gesture to tireless healthcare workers as they endure long hours during the coronavirus outbreak and struggle to pick up essentials as panic buyers strip shelves bare.
Sainsbury’s in Thurrock is on Chafford Hundred.
The same slots will also be extended to the elderly and vulnerable, who enjoyed a dedicated shopping hour on Thursday.
It means on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, they will all have a dedicated one-hour slot between 8am and 9am.
Sainsbury’s chief executive Mike Coupe explained: “Last Thursday, we set aside an hour for elderly and vulnerable shoppers in our supermarkets.
“Many of you have told me how much you appreciated this and that you would like this to become a regular event.
“Some of you also said we should extend this to members of our hardworking NHS and Social Care workers. And we will be doing just that.
“Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, all our supermarkets will dedicate 8am – 9am to serving elderly, disabled and vulnerable customers, as well as NHS and social care workers.
He added workers would need to show an ID pass on their visit.
He used his message to shoppers to announce all stores will now consolidate their opening times to 8am to 8pm to allow shelves to be restocked.
He also urged customers to keep their distance from shop staff.
“To keep our colleagues safe, I need to ask again for your help,” he said.
“Please do your best to stand one metre away from colleagues in our stores where you can. And we would prefer you to pay with card rather than cash at our tills. Please also treat our colleagues and other customers with kindness and respect.
“These are unprecedented circumstances and our colleagues are being asked to come to work every day while so many others are being asked to stay at home. We all need them to keep coming to work to feed the nation – a small thank you goes a really long way.
“I hope you will join us in looking out for each other and the communities that we serve.”
Concerns have been raised about allocating the same dedicated hour to the most vulnerable and NHS staff, who are more likely to come into contact with the virus.
But a spokesman said: “We are introducing social distancing measures throughout our stores and are encouraging all our customers to arrive throughout the hour to prevent queues forming.
“We will continue to review the situation daily to ensure we are adhering to the most up to date government advice.”