South Scotland MSP Emma Harper has praised the efforts of local supermarkets in helping assist NHS workers and protect the region’s most vulnerable.

A number of retailers across the region have introduced special measures during the coronavirus pandemic to enable NHS key workers and those in vulnerable groups in the community to be able to access supplies more easily.

Many of the supermarkets have also introduced social distancing measures to ensure the safety of their employees, and of customers. These include only a few people being allowed in the store at any given time, hand, basket and trolley cleaning stations and screens for the staff at tills.

Commenting, Ms Harper said:

“I’m very pleased to see bigger retailers are playing their part in terms of servicing our rural communities across the region. Tesco, Morrisons, Aldi, Co-op, Sainsbury’s, Iceland, M&S and Lidl are adhering to safety advice and have implemented many changes in their stores, enabling our most vulnerable residents – and our NHS workers – to access essential items in a less stressful environment.

“It is important for people to shop responsibly, buying enough of what they need rather than bulk buying and people should be considerate to other shoppers and staff. These are incredibly difficult times for everyone but if we work together in terms of adhering to social distancing requirements then the situation for this region and beyond is going to be achievable.

“I understand how difficult these changes are for everyone, but they are necessary and important in order to keep people safe and save lives. If anyone needs any advice and support, I’d encourage them to get in touch with me at any time.”

Morrisons and now Lidl are offering a special slot for NHS and social care workers – 7.00 until 8.00 am Monday to Saturday – for those displaying an NHS badge and also offering a take-away service from their café. Nationwide, Morrisons has employed 3500 more staff to expand their delivery service and Lidl are also in the process of expanding their workforce.

Tesco have a priority time for NHS workers, 9-10am Tuesday and Thursdays, and older customers have priority 9-10am on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. NHS staff also have a special priority time 9-10am on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.

Aldi has as of today (Tuesday 31 March) lifted the restrictions on the majority of its products though customers may only buy four of some items including antibacterial wipes, toilet tissue and nappies and two of other items including hand gel, UHT milk and baby formula. The UK’s fifth largest supermarket offers priority access to NHS and emergency workers on display of ID to help key workers who may working long shifts to protect others.

Sainsbury’s have made changes to their store opening hours from last week and NHS ID holders have priority between Monday and Saturday from 07:30 to 08:00. Elderly customers, carers and disabled customers have been given priority on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 08:00 – 09:00. The store has placed restrictions on some of the most popular items and offered priority online delivery slots to elderly customers whom they had contacted.

The Co-op are installing safety screens throughout all their branches from today (Tuesday 31 March) to keep both employees and customers safe and the store has a dedicated shopping hour for vulnerable customers, those that care for them and NHS workers between 8.00 am to 9.00 am Monday to Saturday and from 10am to 11am on Sundays in all our stores. Nationwide Co-op are also recruiting thousands more staff to help with stock delivery and replenishment.

Marks & Spencers, as with all larger retailers, have introduced social distancing measures including floor markings distancing shoppers from employees and also externally to display safe signage for customers who may be queuing outside. The store’s first hour on Monday and Thursday is reserved for older and more vulnerable customers with the first hour of Tuesdays and Thursdays prioritised for NHS workers.

Iceland are offering their last trading hour to NHS workers on a daily basis.

The Scottish Government have relaxed the rules around distribution and deliveries. This means retailers can share resources, such as distribution depots, delivery vans and staff, as well as coordinating stock levels across the country.