Stores tighten coronavirus controls

Tuesday March 24, 2020 Written by Published in Economy
Customers wait for their turn at Prime Foods supermarket with staff Ratu Uriao (standing) all geared with the sanitiser, ready to assist them. 20032324 Customers wait for their turn at Prime Foods supermarket with staff Ratu Uriao (standing) all geared with the sanitiser, ready to assist them. 20032324

Leading food outlets on Rarotonga have started putting in measures to restrict the spread of the coronavirus.


Prime Foods supermarket has already started implementing some of the most stringent measures to battle the virus.

CITC have also prepared a Covid-19 plan which they will implement once government activates Code Yellow from tomorrow evening.

Both supermarkets are urging customers not to panic buy, assuring them that they have “a lot of stock”.

Primefoods from yesterday started limiting usual shopping within the shop through:

-          No children allowed in store.

-          Each customer will be given a time allowance of 20 minutes.

-          There will only be 10 customers at one time.

-          Customers asked to use sanitiser on entry and around the shop when needed.

-          Trolleys and baskets sanitised after customer use.

CITC’s Covid-19 plan includes:

-          All trading stores provide hand sanitisers for all staff and customers. Staff members at each entry point to advice customers to take care and use the sanitisers.

-          All doors, common areas, bathrooms, kitchen areas and high use areas disinfected every two hours.

-          All tea-towels and dish clothes have been removed and replaced with paper towels in Tea Rooms.

-          Staff are provided with disposable gloves where needed.

-          All trolleys and baskets are being sanitised after each customer use.

-          Minimised the number of people in stores and customers asked to respect the social distancing 1.5m allowance between each other.

-          Signage is being placed in strategic places so customers and staff are provided with good information on facts about Covid-19.

-          Health ministry TV installed at the supermarket and are screening the health messages.

Daniel Forsyth, managing director of Prime Foods, said they had implemented their Covid-19 plan sooner than expected to protect their workers, customers and the company.

Forsyth admitted it’s a process that is difficult to start with but he is hoping customers understand the procedures and are better equipped in the coming days.

Chairs are provided for the comfort of waiting customers and those who wish to wait in their vehicles are welcomed to do so.

“We urge people to go into the shop alone unless they really need company,” he said. “We are not allowing children and other highly vulnerable people. We will have staff inside the shop to assist shoppers and help keep the line moving.”

The supermarket has also marked safety distances while cashing out to ensure limited interaction with their cashiers.

“Internally we are also asking our staff to restrict interaction and use mobile phones to communicate with each other.”

Forsyth also said the supermarket has stocked up to ensure they have enough goods to last them during this time.

Cargo ships to Rarotonga remain on schedule this and the coming month.

Given Cook Islands remoteness, Forsyth said they always stock up for two to three months in advance.

“Supermarkets in Australia and sometimes in New Zealand, they order their goods on the day, they don’t have massive storages like we do here.

“But we can understand some people prefer to do shopping once a week.”

Gaye Whitta, CITC’s general manager, also said they have a lot of stock and will be able to provide goods to their customers for a couple of months. 

However Whitta said there would be some items that they would run short of, but there will always be an alternative product. 

“The country will not run out of food. We have just had two ships in and the next ship is due here in two weeks’ time,” Whitta said.

“The island will be fine so people do not need to panic buy. We encourage our customers to buy a few extra tins of food to store away just in case the government goes to Code Red.”

CITC have strict hygiene practices already in place for all fresh produce, said Whitta, adding extra care has been given to ensuring that they minimise the handling of these products.

“We are now setting up a system to pre-package the majority of our produce to minimise the handling of the product should we go to Code-Red.”

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