It was a beautiful day in Cambridge as I made my way down to Sainsbury’s on Sidney Street.
Passers-by paused to admire the view on Magdalene Bridge. The queue of coffee lovers on Round Church Street wall – waiting to get their caffeine fix from Bould Brothers – was looking decidedly thicker than in recent days.
So I wondered how busy the supermarket, generally quite empty at 3pm on a Tuesday, was going to be.
I needn’t have worried – and you needn’t either. Away from the streams of people in central Cambridge, Sainsbury’s is a cool, efficient oasis of social distancing.
Seriously, it’s a slick operation there now. Although I needed to queue for a couple of minutes outside, it was very quiet inside – which means they must have a lower upper limit for shoppers.
I hadn’t done my weekly shop at Sainsbury’s for a little while and the changes were obvious.
There are now bright blue signs and posters declaring the retailer’s rules: you must wear a face covering unless you are exempt; you should shop alone whenever possible; and pay by card whenever possible.
And if you were in any doubt about those, a few stern-faced (I think, hard to tell with the masks) security guards looked like they wouldn’t hesitate to remind you.
Happily, I didn’t see anyone breaking the rules inside. We’re fast approaching a year of Covid, and people are by now finely drilled on the physics of it.
We know what two metres looks like. For those who might be tempted to let centimetres slip, Sainsbury’s has evenly spaced yellow and black sticky tape on the floor.
Entering that state of hyper self-consciousness we’ve all developed since March 2020, no-one set off my invisible laser alarms.
It’s all about flow in a supermarket. To an extent, there’s only so much a shop can do when the internal layout draws people in a certain direction.
So yes, shoppers were slightly more bunched together at the top horizontal aisle of Sainsbury’s, but it was very quiet on most of the aisles.
There’s still the same cleaning station at the front of the store, with disinfectant and blue roll to wipe down basket handles, and sanitiser for your hands.
No one was enforcing the cleaning – and it is the one thing that worries me a little, a crack in the Covid-secure fortress when I imagine all the shoppers looping round.
My overwhelming impression is that Sainsbury’s runs a seriously strict operation. As well as staff in security roles, the store appears to have brought in an outside security team: there were a couple of men dressed all in black with torso protection.
Neither a member of the management team nor security guard would comment when (from two metres away) I caught their attention for a quick question on restrictions. The castle drawbridge came quickly up.
You are in for a safe, quiet and undisturbed shop at Sainsbury’s Sidney Street. As long as you follow the rules.