The early bird might catch the worm but supermarkets are hoping that if older people do their shopping before 9am they will catch nothing at all.
Albert Heijn has announced that from Monday 23rd March, the over-70s are welcome to an exclusive shopping hour from 7am to 8am in all of its stores.
Concerns have been growing in recent days about the exposure of more vulnerable older people to the coronavirus: 80% of deaths worldwide are believed to have occurred in adults over 60.
‘On weekdays from Monday to Friday [older people] can visit all Albert Heijn shops in the Netherlands before they are opened to other clients,’ said the supermarket chain in a press release. ‘Albert Heijn is counting on the understanding and cooperation of other customers for this decision and urges them to do their shopping at other times.’
‘We advise older people in principle to stay at home and order in shopping, or ask other people to help. If that doesn’t work out, then they can still do their supermarket shop with this special shopping hour.’
Albert Heijn is not the first supermarket to reserve special times for older people. Two Jumbo branches in Nieuwkoop and Spakenburg have already started inviting seniors to shop before the rush hour – the Nieuwkoop branch from 7.30am to 9am and the other from 8am to 9am.
A spokeswoman from Jumbo said that the idea was to keep older people as far as possible from the morning rush hour. ‘Two of our branches have chosen to introduce this, and the idea is that it happens before the normal rush begins,’ she told DutchNews.nl. ‘We see that is mostly at 9am. Other clients aren’t banned but we ask them to respect the invitation. We are now in discussions about whether we can do this at other stores.’
Earlier this week 50Plus party leader Henk Krol called in parliament for special shopping times reserved only for older people in order to reduce their infection risk. ‘We are happy with this measure,’ a 50Plus spokesman told DutchNews.nl. ‘In the morning the shelves are fully stocked and there is no shortage of things like toilet paper. In our experience, older people are also often awake early.’
Some people have contacted the party raising concerns that carers who visit them at home are not there so early in the morning, but since they can still shop together later in the day, the party said it still welcomes the development.
A spokeswoman for Dirk van den Broek and DekaMarkt supermarkets told DutchNews.nl that from Monday they would open for an extra hour, from 7am, but that this was to help everyone keep 1.5m distance from other shoppers rather than just for older clients.
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