Belgian supermarkets move to fight crowding and panic-buying

Belgian supermarkets move to fight crowding and panic-buying
. © Belga

Supermarket chains in Belgium have announced measures to cope with hoarding customers as well as to shield elderly people from crowding amid the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite grocers reporting healthy supply chains in a bid to keep the aisles from being wiped, public concern over the coronavirus pandemic continues to see costumers flock to the stores.

Chains Aldi and Delhaize have imposed a cap on the maximum number of customers that may be allowed inside a store at the same time, in order to ensure that the social-distancing measures recommended by experts as central to fighting the spread of the pandemic are followed.

"If we are not careful, supermarkets will become the busiest places of all," Aldi spokesperson Dieter Snoeck told De Standaard. The discount supermarket on Tuesday decided to limit the number of customers in its stores to 50.

At Delhaize, shop managers were asked to implement measures to ensure that there is only one customer for every 15 square metres inside a store, in a move which tops the number of clients inside the chain's largest shops to around 150.

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The measures are similar to those already imposed on Italy, the second country most-hard hit by the pandemic outside of China, where hospitals are reeling over a lack of staff and resources to face the wave of hospitalisation triggered by the outbreak.

In a move mimicking that of other supermarkets across in Europe and abroad, Delhaize is also moving to create shopping hours exclusively for elderly customers.

The supermarket said people over 65 would get priority access to their stores between 8:00 and 9:00 AM, calling on other customers to show "solidarity and understanding" by doing their shopping outside the single hour.

Amid the wave of panic buying sweeping supermarkets in Belgium and abroad, several users took to social media to call attention to the impacts that unnecessary hoarding can have on those who are the most vulnerable to the virus, namely the elderly and the immunocompromised.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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