People have been asking why the markets are still running during the coronavirus crisis.
We and our customers have been subject to abuse both in person and in social media. But we do not have the luxury of sitting back and criticising while doing nothing ourselves. We have real decisions to make, and a real-life course of action to follow. We have people’s health and livelihoods to consider. We will try to explain our thinking.
First, the government has authorised outdoor food markets to operate during the crisis. You can read the regulations here. Some markets have nevertheless chosen to close. We have stayed open because we believe that continuing to offer fresh food in the fresh air is the best contribution we can make to fighting COVID-19.
Second, people need to eat. Closing our markets would only oblige our customers to spend more time in supermarkets and other shops.
Third, shopping for food outdoors is safer than in a store. See the transcript from a Government briefing here with the quote from Professor Jonathan Van-Tam deputy chief medical officer at 33.56.
The novel coronavirus is spread by droplets from the nose and mouth. Infection is more likely in a confined space, where micro-droplets expelled by coughing, sneezing and even talking will hang in the air much longer than out in the open air. If you are not convinced, watch this clip from Japan or this slightly longer version.
Fourth, we are operating within government guidelines. We have imposed new safety rules on our producers. We are spending money on putting up barriers and recruiting stewards to ensure social distancing is maintained. We are asking customers to come to the market alone, to leave their children and dogs at home, to stagger their arrival times and to complete their shopping as fast as possible. Police and local authorities are invited to visit at any time to confirm we have the right measures in place. Some already have, and they were satisfied with what they saw.
We have thought very carefully about the issues involved. Closing would easy but wrong. Staying open is the right thing to do.
It's official, we're glad to be back and we can't wait to see you all.
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