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Signs on the ground at Carrefour Ajman City Centre to ensure customers keep a safe distance from each other Image Credit: Atiq Ur Rehman/Gulf News

Dubai: As UAE residents largely operate from home, occasionally venturing out during the day to a supermarket or pharmacy to buy groceries or medicines, the need to adhere to basic etiquette and safety guidelines at these places has become imperative so that nothing is left to chance in the combat against coronavirus.

Here is a check list of 12 essential things you need to know before you head out for your next round of grocery shopping:

ONE AT A TIME, PLEASE: To avoid crowding, make sure only one member of your household visits the supermarket or pharmacy. This will ensure that the retailers keep within the stipulated 30 per cent capacity at any point of time. If the store happens to be 30 per cent full when you reach the place, don’t complain if you have to wait for some time to get in.

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A shopper at a supermarket in Abu Dhabi Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

MASKS - TO WEAR OR NOT WEAR?: Now that is a question everyone is asking ever since the authorities announced that people must wear masks when they are indoors at a public place. A fine of Dh1,000 was also announced for those who violate the rule. But as Dr Hamad Al Shamsi, the country’s attorney general, has clarified, this is applicable only if you are unwell, have symptoms of a flu or suffer from chronic diseases. Officials have also categorically stated that no supermarket is authorised to impose or collect any fine in this respect as this is a federal matter.

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People wearing masks at a hypermarket in Dubai Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

HAND IN GLOVE: Yes, pun intended, it helps to work closely with everyone concerned to check the virus spread. Wearing gloves when you go out shopping could prevent you from coming into direct contact with a product or surface that may have the virus on it. It is a good idea to wear disposable gloves and discard them safely once you are done with the shopping.

DON’T TOUCH SURFACES: Coronavirus is known to live on a surface well after droplets of an infected cough or sneeze land on it. According to a study, the virus can live for two to three days on plastic and stainless steel, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to four hours on copper. So avoid touching any kind of surface with your hands and do not touch your face with your hands until you've washed them. 

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A staff cleaning a trolley at Carrefour Image Credit: Sankha Kar/Gulf News

USE A CLEAN TROLLEY: Make sure you use a clean trolley – or basket - as most supermarkets have staff wiping the “high-touch” handles with a disinfectant before you pull it out of the stack. In case the service is not provided, it’s not a bad idea to carry your own wipes and clean the handles yourself. 

STOP FEELING THOSE FRUITS: Old habits die hard, but avoid feeling fruits and vegetables to check them out only to put them back on the shelf. Try to make your assessments through your eyes, pick up only what you need and move on.

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Customers at Lulu Hypermarket at Al Qusais, Dubai Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

DON’T OVERBUY: The authorities have been repeatedly assuring people that there is no need to resort to panic-buying or hoarding as there is enough stock of both perishable and non-perishable food products. One supermarket chain is even chartering flights to ensure supplies from India on lockdown continue uninterrupted.

MAINTAIN THAT DISTANCE: Respect social distancing etiquette. Don’t get too close to people while you are browsing through the shelves or picking up stuff you want. Most supermarkets have marked out the spots where customers must stand at the cash counters so there is a physical distance of 1.5 to 2 metres between two people. Stick to these spots, wait till the previous customer leaves the counter and then make your way up there. Try to maintain a distance from the cashier too.

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Maintain a safe distance: Most supermarkets spell it out Image Credit: Gulf News

HOW TO PAY?: According to some experts, cash transactions are best avoided and if there’s no choice, you must wash your hands thoroughly after handling currency. Ever since the outbreak of coronavirus, people have preferred cashless transactions., paying by ApplePay or through credit and debit cards.

Cashless transactions are preferred Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

AVOID LAST-MINUTE SHOPPING: Most supermarkets are closing early (by 7pm) these days since the national disinfection drive begins at 8pm. So avoid last-minute shopping. Visiting the stores earlier in the day is highly  recommended.

WASH FRESH PRODUCE: When you’ve brought your groceries home, throw your gloves away, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water and also wash the fresh produce in running water before putting it away in the refrigerator. After you've unpacked your groceries, discard the bags, wipe the counters and wash your hands again.

DON’T STRESS: Attempting to keep the coronavirus at bay while picking up your groceries doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. Make a list of what you need in advance, so you know what exactly you want and spend as little time as possible in the supermarket. Being organised would help you limit the number of supermarket visits too.