Grocery staff avoid contracting Covid-19

Efforts made to prioritise the safety of staff and customers within Ireland's grocery sector have worked



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26 May 2020

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With yesterday the first day that the Republic of Ireland recorded no new deaths from Covid-19 since the coronavirus outbreak began, it appears that the safety measures implemented by retailers, including the installation of perspex screens and social distancing markers have worked, with the major supermarket groups reporting low levels of the virus among staff.

Out of a total of 5,200 staff on the island of Ireland, Lidl reported that 11 colleagues in the Republic and three in Northern Ireland had tested positive for Covid-19 – accounting for just 0.3% of its workforce here.

Aldi meanwhile, reported that 10 people out of an Irish workforce of more than 4,000 had tested positive for the virus. Aldi said that each of the 10 workers who had the virus had since fully recovered and returned to work. It added that more than 200 staff were temporarily unavailable over the past two months when they self-isolated as a precautionary measure.

While not giving an exact figure, Tesco Ireland said that out of 13,000 staff across Ireland that “some of our colleagues will of course be affected by the virus, and a small number have tested positive for Covid-19.”

“In these cases, our colleagues receive full sick pay from day one,” a spokesperson for Tesco said. “All affected colleagues have recovered or are currently in recovery.”

Tesco added that staff who were medically vulnerable or aged over 70 had received paid absences while they were cocooning.

At SuperValu, the group recorded “a very limited number of cases” across its 223 stores nationwide.

In a article by The Sunday Times, Dunnes Stores reportedly did not respond to a request for information on affected staff.

‘Social distancing has worked’

Peter Gaughan, a Spar retailer based in Balla, Co. Mayo, and the current CSNA vice president, spoke to ShelfLife about the very real fear at the start of the outbreak that it was “only a matter of time” before retailers and their staff on the frontlines would contract Covid-19.

Discussing the efforts that many stores made to deliver groceries to elderly and vulnerable customers, he says he hopes this alters some people’s perception of the importance of local stores and that staff receive the recognition and respect they deserve.

“I hope they remember that we did do a good job and that we did stay open,” he told ShelfLife. “That when it would have been an awful lot easier for us, for a lot of retailers to close the doors, to go home and stay safe, that they stayed open and that the staff did as good a job as they did because it was worrying times for us.

“I genuinely thought at the beginning of all of this, that it would only be a matter of time before we picked it up [due to community transmission]; it would only be a matter of time before every retailer and every shop assistant caught it.

“I was genuinely worried so thankfully, the social distancing worked, the lockdown worked and people have been really, really good at watching everything.

“That was a big, big fear and yet the retailers still turned up to work, the shop assistants still turned up to work and I don’t have to get credit for it but they [do],” Gaughan added. “A lot of them they wanted to keep their jobs, they were delighted to keep their jobs but they also wanted to give a little bit back to the community and I know that sounds a bit twee, but a lot of them genuinely did.

“I said to the team here, if we didn’t turn up to work and the shop across the road didn’t turn up to work, how would the pensioners and the people who don’t have transport get groceries? You might not think we’re essential but we are and we are doing a good job.”



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