Carrefour began putting up protective barriers for cashiers in its French supermarkets on Monday, as it beefs up sanitary measures and looks to keep business flowing as France shuts down other sectors to fight the coronavirus outbreak.
Carrefour, Europe's biggest retailer which competes in France with chains from Germany's Lidl and Aldi to homegrown Casino and Leclerc - has like peers seen an increase in stockpiling by shoppers in recent days, a senior official at the firm said.
The company has started mounting translucent shields made of plexiglass and other materials to protect cashiers who are exposed to customers, the executive added, on top of other measures extended to all staff, including the use of hand gels.
In some stores without protections at check-out counters yet, employees improvised on Monday, with one mounting a shield made of cling film over a clothes horse, pictures shared by worker unions showed.
Carrefour's measures were modelled on those already taken in the group's stores in Italy, which has now gone into full lockdown, with trips outside the house only permitted to buy food and for essential activities.
France announced measures to further restrict people's movements on Monday evening, which are due to come into force on midday on Tuesday. It ordered bars, restaurants and non-essential retail stores to close at the weekend.
Fewer than 10% of staff in Carrefour's stores missed work on Monday, when school closures kicked in and some workers had to remain at home, the company official added. The group has some 105,000 employees in France, including in office functions and warehouses.
In Germany, supermarket chain REWE called on Monday for students whose universities have shut due to the coronavirus crisis to help it refill its shelves as people panic-buy food and goods like toilet rolls.
Britain's major supermarkets are also working on plans to streamline their operations by cutting cafes, counters and other services to enable a depleted workforce to maintain basic provisions.
Carrefour, as well as worker unions and FCD, a French retailers' federation, have called on the government to make face masks, requisitioned in the first instance for health workers, available to supermarket staff as well.