At the time of writing this, events are moving swiftly, and the situation regarding the coronavirus pandemic is continually changing. However, one clear aspect which will have an impact on both businesses and their customers is social distancing.
The end result is likely to be many shops and venues closing for the foreseeable future, but certain essential stores and other buildings will stay open.
What measures, then, can you take to impose social distancing inside your premises if you are staying open for business?
What Social Distancing Means
Social distancing means minimising the amount of contact between individuals, to attempt to then limit the transmission of COVID-19, the virus, between those who are potentially infected, and those who are not.
There are different types of social distancing measures, which are in ascending stages, the most prominent being:
Isolation – for anyone testing positive for the virus, or who has symptoms.
Quarantine – for anyone who is healthy who has come into contact with someone else with coronavirus.
Self-isolation – the majority of the public staying at home, avoiding mass and group gatherings, and close contact with at-risk groups.
Practicing self-isolation means staying home if you are sick; try and get food delivered rather than go out shopping for it; and run errands in off-peak hours where possible.
However, realistically, people will need to go out for various, non-social and essential reasons.
Therefore, stores and premises which stay open need to introduce measures that enable social distancing within their walls.
Imposing Social Distancing
The important thing is to make it as easy as possible for people to maintain this condition inside your premises.
Consider how many people your premises can contain realistically while enabling them to maintain a minimum distance of one metre between one another.
This might involve a queuing system, which itself needs to allow people to line up with enough distance between them.
Another way of supporting social distancing is to create clearly defined lines along aisles and passageways for people to pass along.
Put measures in place to limit face-to-face contact and the number of people in a confined space at any one time.
Do not assume people will automatically understand your new rules. Post clear signs up on visible surfaces explaining your social isolation policy and the measures you are taking for people’s protection.
With the sheer amount of publicity now around about COVID-19, the expectation should be that most people will be compliant with in-house social isolating measures.
However, having clearly demarcated barriers, lines and rules will help to make this work, with queue barriers helping to demarcate boundaries.
Handwashing and Hygiene
Where possible, make sure there are clearly visible and accessible handwashing facilities on your premises.
One option is to install a hand-sanitiser station at the entrance to your store or premises.
Any employees dealing with members of the public should also have regular access to hand sanitising facilities.
When you close up for the day, make sure you follow a thorough cleaning regime for disinfecting all surfaces, ready for the next day.
A big part of social distancing is protecting at-risk groups from the spread of coronavirus.
With the latest Government advice moving towards the over 70s needing to be self-isolating for up to 12 weeks, you need to consider what your organisation can do to support the vulnerable?
Some stores are already earmarking specific opening times for over-70s.
Keep Up to Date with Developments
The situation is shifting all the time, and official advice will keep changing too. Keep up to date with this to ensure you are taking the right kind of effective social distancing measures in your store or premises.
Please note that the points above are only issued as recommendations and you should consult official government guidelines before implementing social distancing. You can read the Government’s own guidance on social distancing here.