Nicky Minshall, Telford & Wrekin’s public protection chief, said her team had been visiting stores since the pandemic began, discussing topics like cleaning, social distancing and the enforcement of face masks, but said the government had suggested supermarkets “don’t have enough controls in place”.
She said her department was considering carrying out inspections with the police, and urged residents to raise concerns about possible Covid-19 risks with the council.
Council leader Shaun Davies said supermarket chains were in a “privileged position” of staying open while other businesses were closed, and this gave them a moral obligation to keep premises safe.
This week, Morrisons announced it would bar customers from entering stores without face coverings, unless they were medically exempt from wearing one. Sainsbury’s also said its security guards would challenge uncovered shoppers.
Speaking in an online question-and-answer session hosted by the council, Ms Minshall said: “Officers from public protection have been visiting supermarkets throughout all of the lockdowns, and when everybody could trade as well.
“They’re discussing their measures, we’re talking about the cleaning, we’re talking about what they’re doing to protect their staff and we’re looking at their Covid-secure risk assessments.
“We’re looking now to do some joint visits with the police.
“The wearing of face masks within a supermarket is a police-enforced power, not a local authority power, but if anybody has got specific concerns about a supermarket not adhering to any of the guidance, or if they feel unsafe when they go, please email email@example.com and we will visit on your behalf to ensure the right protections are in place.”
Ms Minshall added: “I think there is a national view now from government that, perhaps, supermarkets don’t have enough controls in place, so I think the team will be out there over the coming weeks looking at supermarkets and taking whatever action is necessary.”
She said she had observed some measures, such as limiting the number of people allowed into stores, with queues outside, had been reintroduced in some supermarkets and others were considering bringing them back in.
Councillor Davies said: “Nationally and locally, there has been a huge amount of concern around supermarkets and I think supermarkets do need to start tightening their act up significantly around Covid-secure measures, for example limiting the number of people coming into the store, ensuring social distancing is applied and cleaning takes place.
“They are in a very privileged position; multi-million, sometimes billion-pound companies, open, while other companies and businesses are closed. Therefore, they have to take a moral standpoint in terms of ensuring things are absolutely safe.”