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Coronavirus Kent: Waitrose limiting customer numbers and marshalling queues as Tesco and Sainsbury's review new social distancing measures

Waitrose is liming customer numbers and marshalling queues outside shops in a bid to help tackle the spread of coronavirus.

The supermarket chain, which has stores across Kent, has today announced a raft of new measures which will "dramatically change how people shop" in response to the government's plea for "social distancing".

Waitrose is introducing new measures to tackle the spread of coronavirus
Waitrose is introducing new measures to tackle the spread of coronavirus

Sainsbury's and Tesco are also reviewing measures for managing queueing safely.

From today, Waitrose will limit the number of customers allowed in at any one time. The limits will be specific to each branch based on the number of tills.

A spokesman said: "Shop managers will use their judgment on customer numbers and when the shop is at capacity to manage social distancing will operate a one in, one out policy."

Meanwhile, marshals will help manage queues outside stores and "if necessary remind customers to respect the two-metre social distancing rule".

There will be signage and a coned area instructing shoppers to queue a safe distance apart from each other outside stores.

Queues outside Sainsbury's in Maidstone last week
Queues outside Sainsbury's in Maidstone last week

Floor signage is being introduced in all Waitrose stores, keeping shoppers two metres apart when queueing at checkouts. These will read: "Leave space. Leave Safe. Help us to protect you."

In a bid to protect staff from "infected moisture droplets", new checkout screens have been ordered. Where two checkouts are back to back, one will close.

Only one family will be allowed in a lift at one time.

Customers are being encouraged to pay via contactless and use self-service tills. Waitrose is also part of discussions to increase the contactless limit to £45.

​Bérangère Michel, partner and executive director of customer service at the John Lewis Partnership, said: “The health of our partners and customers has always been our number one priority and we fully support social distancing.

“While these measures will dramatically change how people shop and interact with others in our stores for the moment - they are absolutely vital to ensure that our customers can shop safely and that our partners are protected as they go above and beyond to serve shoppers in this time of crisis.”

Queues out of the door at 6am last week at Tesco in Gillingham
Queues out of the door at 6am last week at Tesco in Gillingham

In Waitrose shops, customers are able to buy three of any specific grocery item, and a maximum of any two packets of toilet roll. Exclusions to this include fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as Easter confectionery, beers, wines, cider and spirits.

Sainsbury's will soon have reminders displayed throughout stores to keep a safe distance.

A spokesman said: "We are also actively reviewing the best options for queuing systems inside and outside our stores and will implement the safest measures as soon as we can."

Tesco has queuing barriers at its larger stores and will review what further measures need to be taken to support social distancing inside and outside its shops.

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