The retail network Iki has called for state institutions and healthcare experts to take into account the risk faced by individuals working in the retail sector and to include this group in the vaccination list after medics and professions and individuals at greatest risk. Almost 5,000 people have been working at Iki stores for ten months on the front line, facing a high risk of infection every day according to a press release.
While the retail network ensures the highest security standards, the risks its staff face while interacting with thousands of clients every day remains huge nonetheless. “Throughout the pandemic, Iki staff have been hard at work whilst being in a zone of elevated risk, and the danger of infection is right there. Our staff members have families and relatives who also need to be protected, and it is our belief that retail staff should be included among the priority groups, which would receive COVID-19 vaccination in the near future,” says Nijolė Kvietkauskaitė, the CEO of Palink, the company, which manages the retail network Iki.
Austria, which has also faced large numbers of COVID-19 infections, has included retail workers in the second elevated risk group after medics and individuals with comorbidities. Vaccination of the retail sector is planned for February-April 2021. German retail staff are included in the third elevated risk group, alongside education staff.
“We urge (the Ministry) to not forget this large profession group, which patiently works on the front lines every day,” N. Kvietkauskaitė says.
As during the spring lockdown, Iki staff are currently paid bonuses for the high-risk working conditions. Furthermore, an emotional support line ‘Kaip Jautiesi?’ [‘How Are You?’] has been launched, allowing staff free of charge consultations and sharing their emotions with a professional psychologist. Iki has already invested 3.4 million euros in staff safety and other measures to combat the pandemic. In order to ensure maximum staff and customer safety, it is advised to visit stores outside of peak hours – on workdays and Saturdays from stores opening to 10am and also from 8pm to store closing. On Sundays, there are few people in stores throughout its working time. For customer convenience, some stores are opened at 7.30am and close at either 10 or 11pm.