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mask warning Doctors blame virus outbreaks on shoppers’ complacency

People need to be refused entry to shops if they don’t wear masks properly and ­sanitise’

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Dublin GP Dr Angela Parvu says patients have said their only trips out are for groceries. Photo: Douglas O’Connor

Dublin GP Dr Angela Parvu says patients have said their only trips out are for groceries. Photo: Douglas O’Connor

Dublin GP Dr Angela Parvu says patients have said their only trips out are for groceries. Photo: Douglas O’Connor

More than 35 Covid-19 outbreaks have been linked to supermarkets in recent weeks as consumers become complacent, health experts have warned.

According to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), 35 were linked back to shops in Ireland in the last 11 weeks.

Nineteen were recorded in the last month, with three in the last week.

Dr Gabriel Scally, the president of epidemiology and public health at the Royal Society of Medicine, said there was clear evidence that shops are places where the coronavirus can be transmitted.

He said the onus is on consumers and supermarkets to ensure Covid-19 safety is maintained.

“Shops must ensure shoppers are socially distancing properly,” Dr Scally told the Irish Independent. “Shoppers should not handle goods and put them back on shelves or in frid ges in shops.”

He said the virus can survive on surfaces, particularly on chilled surfaces and then be passed on.

“People need to be refused entry to shops if they don’t wear masks properly and ­sanitise,” Dr Scally said.

“Most of the spread is airborne but there is a worry someone can sneeze on their hands, then touch goods and place them back on the shelves.”

“It’s now difficult to pinpoint where cases are coming from because everyone goes to the shops, everyone needs to buy food,” he said.

“I appeal to the big chains to enforce safety properly and for everyone to choose where you shop based on how good the safety is.”

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan recently asked shops to review their existing protocols to ensure staff and customers are protected as much as possible.

Meanwhile, a GP has revealed up to 30pc of patients who recently tested positive claimed they had visited only grocery shops in the days before they became ill.

Dr Angela Parvu, based in Coolock, north Dublin, said more than 50pc of patients informed her they had visited only the supermarket before becoming ill. Up to 30pc were actually diagnosed as Covid positive, she said.

“I have definitely found most people with symptoms are saying the same thing, that they don’t go anywhere except the shops,” she told the Irish Independent:

“It surprises me that people believe they are really safe at the shops. I’ve seen people moving their masks off their faces, I saw a lady trying to open a bag to put vegetables in and she moved her mask and tried to open it with her mouth.

“There are so many little things we don’t think about when we’re doing them, they’re automatic.”

Duncan Graham, managing director of Retail Excellence, said: “The number of cases that can officially be traced back to retail are very few.

“Retailers invested heavily to make sure shops are as safe as possible. Most retailers have done everything they can do to make their premises safe. The vast majority of retailers are taking this very seriously.”

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “Any setting in which there is social interaction giving rise to physical proximity, particularly indoors, presents a possible risk for transmission of SARS-CoV-2.”

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