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Lulu Hypermarket in Al Qusais Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Despite the upcoming closure of malls and markets in the UAE, leading retailers and hypermarkets have announced that they will remain open to serve customers across the UAE.

This includes mall-based outlets as well as standalone stores, Gulf News can confirm.

“Lulu Group has confirmed that all its 76 branches in the UAE will continue to function as usual from 8AM to 12midnight every day. There will not be any changes in operation timings as per the latest announcement from the authorities,” V Nandakumar, chief communications officer at Lulu Group, told Gulf News.

Union Coop has also confirmed that their operations will continue as usual. There have been social distancing stickers placed on the supermarket floors to ensure distance between the customers. Additionally, Union Coop has provided a selection of latex and vinyl gloves for customers to use upon entry to the supermarket and sanitiser bottles as well. Each shopping trolley is sanitised prior to and after customer use.

Al Maya Supermarkets are also operating as usual, with some stores operating 24 hours and home delivery available in Dubai and Abu Dhabi until midnight.

Kamal Vachani, Group Director of Al Maya Group says, “The UAE offers a safe and secure environment, which is very important for my family and me. Especially during the coronavirus epidemic, the UAE is the safest place on earth. Also, it offers all amenities and quality of life to enjoy a world-class lifestyle.”

Vachani confirmed that the supermarkets have not experienced any short supplies and all essentials are stocked well. They are following all safety procedures with distancing stickers in place, masks being worn by the staff and sanitisers being made available.

Choithrams has also been continuing operation hours as usual. CEO Rajiv Warrier says, “Following the guidelines of local health authorities, we have responded immediately to ensure stringent sanitisation protocols are implemented within our fleet, delivery and customer facing teams in store and online.”

Abu Dhabi Cooperative Society and Spar group will also operate all its 57 outlets according to their usual timings, including the 12 stores that are open for 24 hours.

“We consider ourselves as essential services, and are taking all measures to ensure that our staff remain healthy and customers feel secure,” said Bejoy Thomas Pulickel, chief operation officer at the group.

Spinneys, another popular retailer in Abu Dhabi, also posted on its social media outlets to keep customers informed.

“In keeping with the Government’s notice, our stores within malls will continue to operate to provide essential services,” the retailer posted.

Philippe PEGUILHAN, Country Manager of Carrefour UAE at Majid Al Futtaim Retail, said in a statement, “While shopping malls are closing in the UAE, all our stores remain open and fully stocked for customers, operating at our regular times.

"We encourage all our valued customers to shop responsibly and be mindful of others. We have full confidence in our stock and supply chain and we continue to monitor stock levels to ensure we adequately cater to customer needs. We are also working closely with suppliers to ensure that essential products remain at reasonable prices so that our customers don’t experience an increase in their shopping bills.|

"In addition to full sanitation of the stores, Carrefour is adding measures to ensure social distancing and preserve the health of our customers and employees. This includes placing acrylic glass screens at checkout counters to reduce contact, and instructional signage to guide customers on the best social distancing practices.”

Fish and vegetable markets

Fish and vegetable markets, which are typically composed of smaller stores by different sellers, will close within 48 hours, as announced by the UAE Government.

A customer service representative at the Abu Dhabi Government Hotline confirmed that this will include stores at the Madinat Zayed Vegetable Market, the Mina Market and other vegetable and fruit markets.

“We are not sure if this closure decision applies to us, and are just awaiting further direction. But it will impact our livelihood greatly if we are forced to close. In general, we are a small store and don’t see much crowding, so I hope we will be allowed to remain open,” said the owner of a greengrocer off Fatima Bint Mubarak Street.

The closures were announced earlier today in a bid to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. The virus has been shown to spread most easily from individual to individual, especially in mass gatherings and crowded areas, and the UAE Government has therefore been systematically closing down areas where such gatherings can occur.

Retailers have also placed floor markings that encourage customers to maintain safe distances between shoppers at the checkout counter.

“In addition, we have put up screens at checkout counters, which are a point of engagement. This will help keep both our shoppers and our checkout staff safe,” Pulickel explained.

Customers should also avoid panic buying: retailers say they have reserve stocks for about six months.

“The Spar Group has stores in countries like Italy and China, where the virus outbreak has matured. We are taking lessons from these markets, and have already prepared 40 days ahead for the closures we are seeing now, even though this is an unprecedented situation. We can assure you that we have no limitations of suppliers,” Pulickel explained.