Coronavirus warning issued to Sandwell supermarkets amid shop social distancing concerns

Shops and supermarkets in the Black Country have been issued a warning letter urging them to enforce Covid restrictions.

Sandwell Council and West Midlands Police have sent the joint letter to businesses across the borough after a spate of complaints and reports of multiple supermarket workers testing positive.

It comes as the region continues to battle with some of the highest infection rates in the country.

Multiple customers and several staff members have complained to the Express & Star concerned at the lack of social distancing at shops across the Black Country and Sandwell Council has now taken action to remind managers of how they can help.

The letter has been sent to all large shops and supermarkets urging managers to ensure:

  • Customers and staff wear face coverings

  • Customers use hand sanitiser as they enter

  • The number of customers allowed in stores is limited

  • Queue management and one-way systems are used to ensure social distancing is possible for staff and customers

The letter is signed by both Lisa McNally, director of public health for Sandwell Council and Ian Green, Chief Superintendent at West Midlands Police.

Lisa McNally, director of public health for Sandwell Council, said: "In recent weeks, we have started to receive more reports from shoppers about breaches of Covid regulations and guidance within stores being ignored. This is both concerning and alarming.

"We need supermarkets to work with us to ensure the safety of both customers and staff so have issued this open letter to let managers know we will do all we can to make shopping safer for our residents.

“Sandwell currently has very high rates of coronavirus. Supermarkets are places where we are likely to come into contact with others and therefore present a risk for infection. As customers we need to take care, staying at least two metres away from others and wearing face coverings."

Ian Green, Chief Superintendent at West Midlands Police, said: "With Sandwell Council staff we will be carrying out observations of supermarkets in the borough to ensure that stores are following the rules and doing everything they can to keep staff and customers safe.

"Where we find significant issues of concern, we will have no alternative but to warn the public of our concerns regarding their safety in your store. Where we identify an offence being committed under the coronavirus regulations we will engage with that individual and formal enforcement action may be taken, where appropriate."

Councillor Maria Crompton, deputy leader at Sandwell Council added: "At this time our priorities have to be to protect the most vulnerable, protect the NHS and to save lives and we all have a collective responsibility to deliver this.

"Our regulatory services team has been carrying out extensive work with store managers.

“Officers are responding to specific complaints and carrying out proactive visits to stores to check that Covid-19 controls are in operation.

“We’re continuing to investigate any concerns and working with supermarket managers to tackle issues such as occupancy levels and social distancing in stores.

“We’ll also providing advice and guidance on any improvements needed following our visits.

“We urge all supermarkets to ensure that appropriate safety measures are in place.

“And if you don’t feel comfortable or it doesn’t look safe to shop in, don’t go in.”

The letter details the action Sandwell Council and West Midlands Police may take if shops fail to make shopping safer in Sandwell.

Customers can report their concerns about shops in Sandwell by emailing PHCovid_19Enquiries@sandwell.gov.uk.

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