Lockdown shopping by alphabetical order, a system adopted by many countries
On 31 March 2020, during the first lockdown imposed in Mauritius, the government decided that retailers and supermarkets will reopen from 2 April 2020 and customers will have to go in alphabetical order as follows:
- A-F: Monday and Thursday
- G-N: Tuesday and Friday
- O-Z: Wednesday and Saturday
The staggered system is an attempt to limit vehicular traffic and the number of persons moving on the road and entering commercial units at the same time. The objective is to prevent crowding and avoid the spread of the virus. Despite some drawbacks, for example one could not buy his bread daily, the system worked so well that the government has introduced it again this time. But was it a solution devised locally?
Not really, as it appeared the system of accessing groceries by alphabetical order during a lockdown period was first implemented in Naples, Italy on 24 March 2020. To cope with the health emergency and to contain and limit the infection in the province of Naples a ‘shopping in alphabetical order’ was imposed by the Mayor.
The same example was followed by the Cayman Islands on 29 March 2020. Mauritius then adopted the idea as from 2nd April 2020, followed by Barbados on 11 April 2020. The Barbadian Prime Minister stated that ““This is not an arbitrary decision, this is a decision that has been reflected that rest upon the basis of using being able to see how many Barbadian households there are, what is the most equitable distribution they can have and how can we give every Barbadian the chance not to go on the street once a week but twice a week.” However, the government of Barbados did not implement it again this year.
Bermuda also adopted the system on 4 April 2020.
In Mauritius, only essential services are allowed to open during the lockdown period. The list includes grocery shops, supermarkets, bakeries, banks, pharmacies, filling stations and meat shops. Hardware stores are excluded unlike in many countries, where hardware stores are allowed to open during lockdown periods as householders have an opportunity to carry out maintenance or DIY jobs while sitting idle at home.
The prohibition on bakeries to sell breads to the public is being widely commented on social media. Netizens argue this doesn’t make sense as bakeries can also implement sanitary measures just as supermarkets or meat/poultry shops. In some regions, this is causing more infection risk as all customers have to flock to only one shop selling bread while a number of bakeries in the vicinity are not accessible.
By the way, it’s Commerce Minister Soodesh Callychurn’s turn today to go shopping today (Surnames A-F on Mondays and Thursdays). The Prime Minister may shop tomorrow (G-N: Tuesdays and Fridays). Our President of the Republic will have to wait until Saturday (O-Z).