Shoppers are being urged to complain if businesses don’t make their premises safe enough.

A trip to the shops is now one of the places where people are most likely to be exposed to Covid-19. Latest figures suggest that in the past month there were more than 800 Hertfordshire residents with Covid-19, whose infection can be tracked back to a shopping trip.

As high streets plan to reopen at the end of lockdown, many residents will be planning to head out to prepare for Christmas.

As part of an ongoing drive to halt the spread of the virus, Hertfordshire’s Health Protection Board spokesperson told a media briefing on Friday (November 27): “The more customers that tell retail outlets they want a safe shopping experience, especially in the run up to Christmas, the more shops will take action.

“Tell businesses that you will make a complaint to the district/borough environmental health department if they don’t act.”

Meanwhile director of public health Jim McManus suggests shoppers remember to wear a face mask, carry sanitiser – and even keep hands in pockets during a shopping trip.

He advises shoppers to ‘shop locally’, avoid crowded stores – and says shoppers should assume they would come into contact with at least one person with Covid-19 every hour.

“I will go out and I will assume that at least once a hour there will be someone who has Covid who will touch something I will touch or be in the same shop. My hands will stay in my pockets – and I will only pick up what I intend to buy.”

When purchasing an item Mr McManus advises sanitising before making a purchase or paying with a card – and then again when leaving the shop.

And he says: “If a shop is really crowded and feeling very stuffy – and the shop hasn’t set limits on the number of people who can go in – go back a bit later.

“And shopping locally is probably safer than being caught up in crowds.”

Further advice from the Hertfordshire Health Protection Board – which brings together representatives from county, district and borough councils, as well as the police – is for shoppers to avoid crowded aisles and not to get closer than one metre to others, even if the shop is busy.

They urge people who are genuinely exempt from wearing a mask to carry a card or wear a badge to say so, to make it easier for shops to enforce a ‘no mask, no entry’ policy.

And they stress the measures are not just to keep shoppers safe – but those who work in shops too.

“People who work in retail are important to us,” says the Board’s briefing.

“They really are key workers, and we need to keep them safe too. Every shopper who shops safely protects a key retail worker. We are in this together.”

The briefing also reveals that the police have already issued 500 warnings to shoppers who fail to comply with Covid-19 restrictions – and they have issued more than 80 fixed penalty notices.

Meanwhile the Hertfordshire Health Protection Board is also asking residents to clean any gates and doorbells regularly – to protect those making deliveries to their homes.

They also advise standing back when receiving a deliver – and hand-washing after opening and discarding packaging.