Feeling uneasy about the corona virus threat? Frequently asked questions on grocery shopping

Feeling uneasy about the corona virus threat? Frequently asked questions on grocery shopping

How do they handle in-store hygiene during the corona virus epidemic? Will there be shortages? What should people in risk groups consider about shopping for groceries? For this article we have selected the most frequently asked questions with answers about our efforts to curb the spreading of the COVID-19 corona virus.


1. How has the corona virus impacted the services of S Group?

The grocery trade, in stores as well as online, has been lively while the number of customers at our hotels and ABC service stations have dwindled. Restaurant operations have been restricted by a government decision. As part of its efforts to adapt to the situation brought on by the corona virus, part of the places of business of S Group have reduced their opening hours as well as their range of services.

2. Will there be shortages?

Inventory will be replenished daily, and there are no grounds for concern. Due to the increased demand we may be out of certain products momentarily, but the logistics work, and the flow of products will not be interrupted.

3. What should customers consider when shopping in a store?

Always maintain good hand hygiene. It is a good idea to wash your hands before and after shopping. At the majority of our stores there is a handwashing station, normally next to the bottle return. Our stores also provide hand disinfectant.

Always cover your mouth and nose with a napkin or your sleeve when sneezing or coughing.

If you feel the least bit ill or queasy, please don’t come to the store – do your shopping on the web or rely on the help of your neighbours, friends or next of kin.

Always keep a proper distance, at least one metre, to other customers and our personnel through your entire shopping visit, also when packing down your purchases.

4. How do you prevent congestion in stores?

What we need now is a show of good team play. Always keep a proper distance of at least one metre to others through your entire shopping visit. Please await your turn at the self-service scales, in the checkout queue and when packing your purchases.

At this time, they are installing floor stickers near the checkout desks to remind customers on the importance of keeping the safety distance in the checkout queue, too. If at all possible, please do not come to the store with your entire family, especially not toddlers. We remind our customers of the rules of the store using voice announcements, info screens and posters, and if congestions do occur, our personnel may intervene. We also display the rules at our website S-ryhmä.fi, on our social media channels and using email messages that reach a great many customers.

5. When is it safest for people in risk groups to visit the store?

For people in risk groups shopping for food on the web is the best solution, as you do not come in touch with other people, and the risk for contagion is minimal. At this time the web shop is very busy, so make your order well in advance of the desired delivery date. Asking your friends, relatives or neighbours for help is also a good alternative – let’s care for each other, and help those who really need help.

If you do have to do your grocery shopping yourself, the first opening hour in the morning is your best choice - the air is at its cleanest, and the shelves are filled with fresh produce. In stores that are open 24/7, the hours between 9 in the evening and 8 in the morning are the least crowded. The HOK-Elanto cooperative has opened a new grocery order service for Helsinki residents over 70 as part of the Helsinki Helpline campaign. If need be, family members of the oldster can place the order online (directions at the web site foodie.fi/helsinkiapu).

Pirkanmaan Osuuskauppa offers home delivery services together with Aamulehti and local sports clubs. Turun Osuuskauppa has also opened a telephone service for grocery orders of the elderly. The possibilities for opening such services at other locations are sorted out at various other locations

6. Is it safe to eat fruits and vegetables that are displayed in bulk at the store?

You can inspect fruits and vegetables with your eyes, and touch only the items that you are going to buy. The personnel, too, pays special attention to hygienic handling of produce in our stores.

Do, however, rinse fruits and vegetables before use – just as you normally do.

7. How do you see to it that the germs do not infect people in stores?

The various surfaces in the stores – carts, self-service scales, self-checkout points and payment terminals are subject to a stepped-up cleaning regimen.

There have also been in-store changes. The checkout dividers have been taken out of use, and acrylic shields have been installed at the checkout desks to protect the personnel. There’s no coming to work, if the employee feels ever so slightly ill.

The receipt terminals are turned toward the customers, who can take the receipt themselves. It is also possible to receive electronic receipts only. You can activate the electronic receipt service in S-mobile and by updating the chip of your S-Etukortti card at the S-Etukortti terminal in the store. We also advise you not to pay in cash. You can use your card for contactless payment up to 50 euro. All S Group grocery stores also accept payment using the MobilePay app with your phone.

Always wash your hands thoroughly before and after your grocery shopping. At the majority of our stores there is a handwashing station, normally next to the bottle return. Our stores also provide hand disinfectant.

8. Which is better during an epidemic: basket or cart?

We strongly recommend that you use a cart. Keeping the carts clean is easier, and the cart automatically provides a safety distance to other shoppers.

9. I am ill. Can I come to the store? Can I use online stores?

At this time, it is advisable to stay away, even if you just have a little cold. Foodie.fi, our online grocery store, is at the service of people being quarantined or sick at home. Please remember that you are not allowed to shop for groceries yourself, if you have been quarantined by the authorities. If online shops do not deliver to your home address, we recommend that you ask your neighbours to help you out.

10. The online shop is very busy right now. Will the situation improve?

We are doing our very best to increase the delivery capacity of our online shops. Many grocery stores have trained a significant number of order pickers to their online stores. People previously at hotels and restaurant now work as grocery order pickers. Online grocery stores have been set up at great speed and at new locations. It is a good idea to monitor the store that will deliver your orders, as there will be more slots in the delivery schedule as the capacity is expanded.

11. How do you act, if one of your employees contracts COVID-19?

We have instructed our employees to stay at home if the feel even ever so slightly ill. We address hygiene protocols with the utmost care, and all surfaces subject to touching get cleaned frequently. At our stores we have adopted procedures for the protection of employees and customers alike, such as acrylic shields at the checkout desks, and stickers reminding customers of safety distances. We also remind our customers of safety distances and other “rules of the game” using regular voice announcements over the speaker system and information displays.

S Group is one of the biggest employers in Finland, so it’s entirely possible that employees of ours or their family members contract the disease. If an employee falls ill, we act in compliance with the instructions provided by the health authorities. If need be, any and all persons that could have been exposed to the virus is tracked down and quarantined according to the instructions of the municipal health authority. If need be, we have voluntarily removed any employees exposed to the virus from the roster to await further instructions by the doctor responsible for contagious diseases in the municipality.

We have instructions for our business locations on the investigation of contagion, and procedures for effective cleaning of the facilities. The safety of our personnel and our customers is always a top priority, and we always see to it that working and shopping at our stores is safe.

We would like to point out that the corona virus mainly is transmitted in close contact and as a droplet infection. Close contact occurs when a person for a period of 15 minutes or more is less than 2 metres away from an infected person. Typically, such situations do not occur in grocery stores. According to the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), the risk for contagion through other types of contact is small.

12. How do you communicate possible cases of COVID-19 to the public?

In cases of infection, communication relating to the matter is the responsibility of the municipal health authority, who personally contact people who have been in close contact with the infected person. As an entity we cannot communicate any information on infections to the public, as any information on the health of our employees is subject to protection of integrity.

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