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Our View: No logic to closing supermarkets on Sundays

WHEN the latest restrictive measures were announced by the government, we pointed out the decision to close supermarkets on Sundays made no sense. It was simple maths – if the same number of people used supermarkets over six instead of seven days, there would be more crowding at the supermarkets, if not inside, in the parking lots. There would also be longer queues of people waiting to go inside, thus prolonging contact among people which we have been told had to be avoided.

Is ensuring minimal contact among people not meant to be the main objective of the government’s measures? Yet by taking measures ensuring longer waiting times outside to enter a supermarket, inside which there is a set maximum of shoppers, the authorities are encouraging more contact and socialising among people. It is naïve to think that people would be keeping apart by the regulatory two metres, when they have been deprived of social contact all day. If they are waiting outside a supermarket for half an hour or longer, they would seize the opportunity to engage in a little social interaction with fellow human beings.

Another factor not thought of by the policymakers is that supermarkets are open until 9pm on weekdays, the same time that the curfew begins, so in effect the opening time has been reduced by about 20 to 30 minutes; most people would want to be at home before 9pm to avoid the possibility of being fined. Add to this the ban on people under 60 years of age going to the supermarket before 10am and for the people that work it might be difficult to go shopping, especially when factoring in the waiting time outside. On Saturday there will be even more crowding and waiting because the shops were also closed on Wednesday.

The decision to close shops on Sundays seems more like a measure imposed to punish people for violating the decrees banning movement – absurd as this may sound – than an effective way of restricting the spread of the virus. If closing supermarkets for one day was an effective measure to control the spread of the virus, why does the government not close them for three days to restrict the spread even more? There was no logic to this punitive measure.

In the past decisions that were mistaken have been rescinded by the government. It was not afraid to admit errors of decisions made in haste. The closing of supermarkets on Sunday was the biggest mistake yet, and the government must scrap it.


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