Retail sector companies turn to masks, gloves in coronavirus fight

Credit: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

By Noor Zainab Hussain and Shariq Khan

April 2 (Reuters) - Major U.S. retail sector companies on Thursday moved to allay health and safety concerns of staff working at warehouses and stores through the coronavirus pandemic by promising face masks, gloves and sanitizers. Inc AMZN.O said it would roll out temperature checks and face masks for staff at all its U.S. and European warehouses and Whole Foods stores early next week.

While many companies have sent their workers home after government-mandated shutdowns in several countries, retail staff are working to ensure smooth delivery of essentials to customers. This makes them more susceptible to the coronavirus spread.

U.S. online grocery delivery company Instacart said it will distribute free health and safety kits to its full-service shoppers, including a washable and reusable cloth face mask, hand sanitizer and a reusable forehead thermometer.

Warehouse, delivery and retail gig workers in the United States went on strike on Monday calling attention to safety and wage concerns amid the crisis. Among the strikers were roughly 200,000 workers of Instacart, according to strike organizer Gig Workers Collective.

Fifteen workers at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York, also walked off their jobs on Monday following reports of COVID-19 spread among the facility's staff.

Target TGT.N has promised face masks and gloves to more than 350,000 workers in its stores and distribution centers, and said it will also monitor guest traffic at stores and if needed, restrict the number of people inside at a time.

Walmart Inc WMT.N, the largest U.S. employer, has also announced similar measures.

The U.S. death toll from the respiratory disease soared by 950 on Wednesday, marking the third day in a row of record increases. Another 800 deaths reported so far on Thursday increased the national toll to more than 5,600 dead, according to a Reuters tally of official data.

(Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)

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