A brilliant thread by Mr MT on what should have been a normal trip to the supermarket and ended as a realisation that Coronavirus has changed everything, and that key workers work in terrifying conditions.

First published in March 2020.

I needed food. I don’t have an online shopping account and live in a place where options for getting all the food I need are very limited.

As a result I did what I had to; I went to the shop, in this case, Tesco.

Following government and employer advice, I have been at home all week and haven’t gone further than the front gate. So my personal observations of the wider world have been reduced until this evening.

Well, let me tell you, things have changed and there are real superstars out there.

Friday nights in the supermarkets are normally packed, people buying what they need for a weekend of parties, relaxing, whatever...

Not now...

I arrived in the car park, maybe 30 cars, all spread out. I came prepared, with disposable gloves, antibacterial wipes and a ventilator face mask. What I wasn’t prepared for was the change inside the shop.

First thing was trying to get in. Last time I was there it was a week ago and it was exactly as normal (except no toilet roll and pasta), but not now. Security staff, barricades, and a strict one way system to enter and exit.

Almost no customers, so I got straight in and there’s a trolley disinfectant station with antibacterial spray and wipes.

Just beyond starts the 2-metre marking tape which runs everywhere in the store to keep customers apart – no more than one person per division.

A few customers are wearing disposable gloves – everyone, without exception, is eyeing everyone else as though we are about to attack each other. The atmosphere is calm but there’s definitely tension and fear, and no trust at all. Anyone could be asymptomatic and infectious.

Tesco’s campaign showcasing its efforts in promoting social distancing in its stores — as described by Mr MT.

All the aisles are blocked off at one end (by the tills) except two, where there are more staff to direct any customers to a vacant till. I got what I needed and went to a till to pay. That’s when I noticed it.

There were just four tills open with one customer at each.

One guy arguing with the woman at the till about how unfair it was that he could only buy 3 bottles of wine. She looked like she had heard the same rant 300 times already today. But there was something else too.

Each member of staff had the same look – they were frightened, shell shocked even. There they were, right in the front line, face-to-face with an unseen, potentially fatal virus, day after day. Their only PPE: a shop uniform, and an effort to smile.

They are doing what they do in terrifying circumstances, with inadequate or non-existent protective equipment.

They need and deserve our kindness, our gratitude, and respect.

If you can’t shop online and venture to the supermarket, please, be kind.

All the NHS and emergency service personnel, all the cleaners, teachers, waste collectors, and others who are there every day, just doing their jobs... Let’s also remember those who are doing their jobs to keep us fed. Their working conditions are truly scary.

Thanks you guys!

Tweets posted on 27 March 2020 by @mrEmTee.

[This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article on 27 March 2020 with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.]

(Cover: Screenshot of Tesco's advert.)