Coronavirus restrictions: Supermarket's plea to customers with reusable bags

Brooke Rolfe
News Reporter

Shoppers at a New Zealand supermarket are being asked not to bring reusable bags with them when they shop, and to pack their groceries in the car park under a plan to crack down on coronavirus public transmission.

Customers at New World stores across the North Island will temporarily be required to load their items back into their trolley after paying then pack them into bags when they get back to the car.

The method is designed to get shoppers in and out of the supermarket as quickly as possible, to limit the chance of them either spreading or becoming infected with COVID-19, according to Antoinette Laird, a spokesperson for Foodstuffs, the parent company of New World.

There are new rules being rolled out determining what level of contact supermarket workers can have with shoppers grocery bags. Source: AAP

“The main reason for this is to help customers move through the checkout process quicker, hence reducing the amount of time spent in-store,” Ms Laird said, the publication reported.

“This in turn speeds up the process for everyone and allows us to significantly reduce customer queues outside stores.”

The tactic has yet to be rolled out in stores on the South Island, but is the latest in a series of measures being taken by supermarkets in both New Zealand and Australia to combat the spread of coronavirus.

A spokesperson from Woolworths told Yahoo News Australia the measure was not being currently considered by the supermarket, however could in future be on the table if the coronavirus outbreak increases in severity.

The supermarket, along with Coles, has called on customers to pack their own bags if they choose to bring a reusable bag with them.

Staff at Woolworths now only pack items into new bags, while Coles employees will not pack items into new or used bags.

A man in Woolworths where staff have ceased packing items into used bags for customers. Source: AAP

At Aldi, customers have always been required to pack their own groceries into bags at the checkout, so that policy continues.

Concerns were also recently raised over whether shoppers needed to disinfect grocery bags when they brought them into their home.

Yahoo News Australia spoke with Professor Mary-Louise McLaws, an expert in infection control and prevention, from UNSW, about whether bags needed to be cleaned.

Professor McLaws said we shouldn’t be too concerned about COVID-19 clinging onto our bags.

“Bags might be able to hijack it but the droplets dry out rapidly,” she said.

“When putting your bags on the kitchen counter - clean that down with soap and water and that should clean the envelope of the virus.”

Yahoo News Australia has contacted Coles for comment on whether it would consider adopting a policy that required customers to pack their groceries outside of the store.

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