We are being advised to help reduce the risk of infection by keeping social contact to a minimum, and, in many cases, to self-isolate.

Could I suggest that supermarkets play a part in this by creating mobile shops which would carry food and other items away from their stores and out into the neighbourhood, enabling people to shop at street corners or directly from their front doors, instead of in large, potentially infectious gatherings inside shops?

The (very sensible) introduction of rationing means that we have to shop more frequently to keep ourselves regularly supplied, thus increasing the risk of contamination, whereas vans bringing at least the most essential items, perhaps in pre-packaged lots, on to our streets would reduce the number of visits we would have to make. It would also remove the need for the time-consuming practice of processing individual online orders for personal delivery, for which I believe the waiting-time in some cases is as much as three weeks, and get supermarket staff out of their risky environment into the fresh air.

When I was growing up (long before the advent of supermarkets!), milk floats carrying a wide range of dairy and other fresh produce, and bakery and greengrocery vans, were a common sight on our streets, and an accepted way of doing much of our regular shopping. Bearing in mind the possibility that restriction on social contact could extend for several months, we need to think long-term, and devise strategies that can be maintained over such a long period without causing unnecessary harm to our health.

With hopefully better weather on its way, and with the summer ahead, conditions would be ideal for trading ‘al fresco’, and would help cheer those forced to stay at home by offering a little regular human contact. Restaurants which are having to close could perhaps turn their culinary skills to making and delivering cooked meals, and even pharmacies could consider offering a mobile service offering advice and essential medicines; anything to prevent the present situation where, while we are obeying advice not to socialise in pubs and clubs and churches, we are having to do precisely the opposite in our shops.

We are living through unprecedented times in which we may well be called on to make unusual changes, and can no longer take our normal way of life for granted. We need to start thinking ‘outside the box’, and for those with imagination and a flair for organisation, this challenging situation offers an opportunity to exercise their gifts to the full.

Heather Brown

West Cliff Road, Bournemouth