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COVID-19: Is your trip to the in-house grocery store paved with safety measures?

At Arihant Frangipani, Pudupakkam. Photo: Special Arrangement

At Arihant Frangipani, Pudupakkam. Photo: Special Arrangement  

Gated communities have customised solutions for promoting social distancing and minimising points of contact while residents go shopping for essentials

Even where whole populations are holed up in their burrows, following lockdown rules to a T, people may still have to surface now and then for “life-sustainers” – in plain terms, those beans and beets and a caboodle of other things generically called “food items”.

As much of humanity would agree, the trip to the grocer’s, which happened without nary a thought only a couple of weeks ago, is now fraught with nerve-racking anxiety.

So, if the grocer’s is located inside one’s gates, that is one worry less to deal with. Fortunately, many gated communities do come fitted with a grocery store. However, this advantage would amount to just a hill of shrivelled-up beans if precautions are not taken for people to be safe from each other while shopping at the in-house grocery store.

And gated communities seem to be coming up with varying plans, primarily factoring in the size of the store, and the space available right outside. Some of them are putting a number and a dab of paint to social distancing.

Marked spaces

Here is one example of what is beginning to be followed by a good number of gated communities. At the 297-unit Arihant Frangipani, a gated community at Pudupakkam in the Old Mahabalipuram Road region, there is no room for speculation about how much space is a good space to maintain.

With walking and waiting points marked in paint, people are shown their place, as they head to the grocer’s.

“It is a small-sized grocery store, roughly measuring 300 sq.ft. So, only one shopper is allowed inside at any given time. Others have to wait outside, keeping their distance from each other. We have clearly marked the distances to be maintained while heading into and out of the store, as well as waiting outside. The pathways leading and leading out of the store are clearly delineated. This way, we can ensure that following this process becomes second nature to them. Only one person per household can show up at the grocery store,” says Vivek, committee member, Arihant Frangipani Residents Welfare Association.

(On a tangent, it is heartening that a few grocery stores in neighbouhoods also mark designated points where people should stand while waiting for their turn to make their purchases. Even the Koyambedu market has such markers – but how many visitors there follow this safety stricture is a moot point)

Waiting comfort

At House of Hiranandani Upscale, a humongous 10-tower community in Egattur, the store is much bigger than the one at Arihant Frangipani, and the community brings its own customisation plan to grocery-shopping.

“We ask residents, only one person per household, to arrive at the store in their cars. They would be in their cars while waiting for their turn to enter the store. The store is quite big, and there are six rows of racks. Inspite of the space we allow only four people to shop inside the store. The checkout counters have been reduced from four to two, and so, the staff manning the counters now have a distance of more-than-one-metre between them. This idea of waiting outside in the car has worked well, as people don’t get edgy if the wait is longer, as they usually listen to some music on their car music system,” says Raghavan Murti, president, Union of Tower Association at House of Hiranandani Upscale.

Kochar Panchsheel, a 430-unit gated community in Ambattur, has minimised the grocery-shopping time at the in-house store.

Ordering in advance

“The arrangement is such residents have to place orders a day ahead and next day they can come and collect the grocery from the shops. The list of requirements along with the door number is conveyed through an online platform to the shop. Shoppers are let in by turns, and at any given time, only three shoppers can be inside the shop. The maximum number of people that can wait outside the shop is 10, and they have to keep their distance,” says Santosh Abraham, secretary, Kochar Panchsheel Apartments Owners Association.

Reducing points of contact

Shankar Saravanan, the shopkeeper at Kochar Panchsheel, says there is a plan to place the items ordered by every household in a separate tray and place it in front of the store, so that they can leave the area at the shortest time possible.

“As there is fear about handling currency, as it changes hands, we are planning to make the mode of payment largely online,” adds Shankar.

“At the store in our community, 99 percent of the shoppers use their cards to effect transactions. They handle the cards themselves and don’t hand it over to the staff at the checkout counters,” explains Raghavan.

So, are there any novel ways in which your communities are minimising the risk attached to stepping out to the grocer’s? You can write in to us about it, at downtownfeedback@thehindu.co.in

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 10:41:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/covid-19-is-your-trip-to-the-in-house-grocery-store-paved-with-safety-measures/article31179154.ece

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