Elderly, vulnerable groups to get priority hours at supermarkets

The elderly and other vulnerable groups will get their own dedicated shopping hours at FairPrice, Cold Storage and Giant outlets, as the supermarkets take steps to provide safe shopping environments for these groups during the coronavirus outbreak.

FairPrice said in a statement that those in the Pioneer Generation, pregnant women and people with disabilities will have their own shopping hour at its supermarkets from next Monday.

This will take place during the first hour of each FairPrice store's normal operating hours on Monday, and will be from 7am to 8am for stores that operate for 24 hours.

Dairy Farm Group, which operates Cold Storage, Giant, Market Place and Jasons Deli, also said it will roll out a similar measure.

Beginning this week, the first hour of opening on Tuesdays and Wednesdays will be set aside for "the elderly and other vulnerable groups", it said. For 24-hour stores under Dairy Farm Group, the dedicated shopping hour is from 8am to 9am.

Both retailers' moves follow the Ministry of Health's recommendations for safe distancing and greater protection of more vulnerable groups.

Dairy Farm Group said it was also prompted by the recent spike in demand in supermarkets, which may have caused more anxiety among the vulnerable groups over shortage of essential goods. It has also designated special checkout lines for these groups of customers during normal operating hours.

Dedicated shopping hours are expected to provide more vulnerable groups with more time and space to do their shopping, while avoiding crowds that could make the 1m social distancing rule more difficult to follow.

To shop during the priority shopping hour at its stores, FairPrice said that members of the Pioneer Generation - who are 71 or above this year - should present their Pioneer Generation card.

They will continue to enjoy the additional discounts from the existing Pioneer Generation Discount scheme, which applies when they shop on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Both supermarkets said they have also put in place social distancing measures at their checkout lines. Floor markings 1m apart have been placed at checkout queues in all outlets.

FairPrice has also put up in-store posters and made announcements to remind shoppers to keep a safe distance.

All food sampling has also ceased at its more than 200 outlets until further notice.

It has also stepped up cleaning, especially for surfaces that shoppers touch, such as railings, trolleys, baskets and checkout counters, and has provided hand sanitisers for customers to use.

Dairy Farm Group's chief executive of South-east Asia Food Chris Bush said that what the world is facing is "unprecedented".

"We kindly request the support of all our customers by respecting these measures, as we are all dependent on the kindness, understanding and compassion of each other to help us through these challenging times," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2020, with the headline 'Elderly, vulnerable groups to get priority hours at supermarkets'. Print Edition | Subscribe