Shopping during COVID-19
This page gives practical information and advice on how to shop safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. It includes information on what shops are open, how to plan your shopping to avoid unnecessary journeys and how to shop safely for you or for someone else.
The types of shops that are allowed to open depend on the current level of restrictions in the Plan for Living with COVID-19. The plan has 5 levels that correspond to the severity of COVID-19 in a location. Different levels can be in place in different locations in the country.
At Levels 2 to 5, if you are over 70 years or have a medical condition that puts you at very high risk from COVID-19 you should:
- Avoid public transport
- Shop during designated hours
- Keep your social contacts to a very small number of people, for short periods of time and keep your physical distance
It is very important that you keep to guidelines on physical distancing, handwashing and respiratory hygiene.
What shops are allowed to open?
From close of business on 31 December 2020, all retail, except for essential retail, must close.
At level 5, only essential retail and shops can open.
Click and collect from non-essential retail is no longer available. Click and deliver can continue to operate.
Shops should offer dedicated hours to:
- Anyone aged 70 or over
- People with a medical condition that puts them at very high risk from COVID-19
Wearing a face covering when shopping
You must wear a face covering in shops, supermarkets, shopping centres and other retail settings unless you have a reasonable excuse not to do so. This does not apply to children under the age of 13.
Reasonable excuse includes situations where you:
- Cannot wear a mask because of a physical or mental illness or disability
- Need to communicate with someone who has difficulty communicating
- Removed your face covering because you had to provide emergency assistance to someone or you had to provide care or assistance to a vulnerable person
- Removed your face covering to take medication
- Removed your face covering to avoid harm or injury
Under the regulations you will be committing an offence if:
- You refuse to wear a face covering without a reasonable excuse or
- You ignore a request to wear a face covering
A Garda can give you a fixed-charge fine of €80 for not wearing a face covering in a retail outlet. If you do not pay a fixed payment notice within 28 days, you can be prosecuted in court and get:
- A fine of up to €1,000
- Up to 1 months' imprisonment
- Both a fine and imprisonment
You could be fined more or sent to prison for longer if you commit more than one offence.
Planning your shopping
The Irish Global Health Network (IGHN) has advised that you should reduce the number of your shopping trips to minimise your risk of getting COVID-19.
You must wear a face covering in shops, supermarkets and shopping centres.
Before you go shopping, you should consider:
- Am I well enough to go shopping?
If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should not go out. You should self-isolate and other people you live with should restrict their movements. Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. Your GP will assess you over the phone. If they think you need to be tested for COVID-19, they will arrange a test.
- Am I potentially vulnerable, and if so, could I ask someone else
to shop for me?
The HSE has published a list of people who should stay at home as much as possible to protect themselves from COVID-19. If you are at very high risk from COVID-19, you should stay at home where possible and make other arrangements to get your food and medical supplies.
- Do I need to shop today?
Make a list of what items you have at home and plan your meals according to when they go out of date. This will help you to only go to the shop when you need to.
- Have I planned my shopping?
Before you go shopping, make a list of what you need to buy so you can do your shopping more quickly. RTÉ has published useful advice on how to plan your shopping during COVID-19.
- Could I shop online?
You can shop online with many shops and supermarkets and have it delivered to your door or collected at a collection point. If you are food shopping and you are fit and well, it is recommended that you go to a local shop, or collect your online shopping to ensure that home delivery slots are available to those who need them most.
How to shop safely
You should only use shops that have measures in place to limit the spread of COVID-19. Things to look out for include:
- Staff controlling the entry and exit of customers to limit overcrowding
- Facilities available to clean and sanitise trolleys and baskets between use
- Hand sanitisers (with a minimum alcohol content of 60+%) at entrances and exits
- Clear marking on floors to help customers keep to physical distancing measures
- Posters and public address systems reminding customers and staff to keep to physical distancing measures
- Staff practicing social distancing on the shop floor
- Staff wearing a face covering where social distancing is difficult
- Staff cleaning critical contact areas such as screens on self-service checkouts and debit card PIN pads
- Baked foods (such as bread, croissants, scones) covered to protect from sneezes and coughs
- Sneeze shields in place to protect staff at service counters and checkouts
- Customers being encouraged to use contactless payment rather than cash
- Separate shopping times for vulnerable people, such as the elderly
- Depending on the layout of the shop, facilitating a one-way system for shoppers (as many supermarket aisles do not allow for social distancing measures)
How can I shop safely in a supermarket?
Many shops now have priority shopping times for elderly and vulnerable customers to reduce their risk of getting COVID-19. These special hours are usually in the morning but you should check with your local store. There may also be special arrangements for health care workers.
You must wear a face covering in supermarkets, shops and shopping centres.
Safefood has published useful guidance on how to shop safely for groceries during the COVID-19 emergency period. While shopping you should:
- Take your own shopping bags and, if possible, put items directly into the bags and avoid contact with baskets or trolleys.
- Sanitise your hands when you enter the store, ideally with your own sanitiser or, if available, that provided by the store. Avoid contact with surfaces as much as possible.
- If using a basket or trolley to shop, sanitise its handle. It is not recommended that you wear disposable gloves as they can give you a false sense of security and your hands can get contaminated when you take them off.
- Try to use your non-dominant hand to pick goods up and avoid touching your mouth, nose or eyes. Most people are more likely to touch their face with their dominant hand.
- Keep a safe physical distance of 2 metres from all other people – this includes going in and out of the store. If someone comes too close to you, calmly and politely remind them of physical distancing requirements.
- Avoid staying in the shop for any longer than necessary by stopping to chat with staff and fellow shoppers
- Avoid shopping in groups and, where possible, you should avoid taking your children to the shop.
- Make a contactless payment (if possible). The contactless payment limit has increased from €30 to €50.
- Sanitise your hands when leaving the shop (if possible) and again when you get into your car (if travelling by car).
When you get home from the shop, you should:
- Immediately wash your hands.
- Put your shopping away as normal. You should always put away your shopping as soon as you get home, especially foods which must be stored in the fridge or freezer.
- You do not need to sanitise the outside of food packaging. The risk from handling food packing is very low.
- Wash your hands again after you have put your shopping bags away. You do not need to sanitise surfaces or shopping bags, but if you do, follow the manufacturer’s instructions about how much time is needed before wiping the sanitiser off.
Shopping for older and vulnerable people
You can support family members, friends and neighbours who are at very high risk from COVID-19 by shopping for them. If you suspect a friend, relative or member of your local community needs help getting essential food and household items, you should get in touch to see how you can support them.
If you are shopping for a vulnerable person you should:
- Leave the shopping on the doorstep
- Ring the bell or phone them
- Stand back while they collect it
You can find out more about local services through the Alone National Helpline. You can contact ALONE 7 days a week from 8am–8pm on 0818 222024.