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Walmart ramps up health safety measures at stores, starts temperature checks for employees

Kitco News

(Reuters) - Walmart Inc (WMT.N) said on Tuesday it would start taking the temperature of its employees before the start of their shift and ask them basic health screening questions as its steps up safety measures to counter the rapidly spreading coronavirus.

U.S. retailers like Walmart, Target (TGT.N) and Kroger (KR.N) have enforced safety measures, such as reducing hours for cleaning and restocking, as demand for food supplies and essentials skyrockets on concerns that lockdowns to curb the virus might crimp supply.

Walmart said it would send infrared thermometers to all locations over the next week or two and workers who record a temperature of 100 degrees or more will be sent home. The retailer will also supply gloves and face masks to workers who wish to use them.

The first shipment of those thermometers and masks will be deployed to the company’s warehouses and as further supply becomes available, it will be sent to stores, Dan Bartlett, executive vice president of corporate affairs, told reporters on a conference call.

He said the retailer would need more than 7 million masks per week to adequately supply its workforce across the country.

Many service industries across the globe have adopted similar safety measures. Casinos in Macau that reopened last month have been tasked by the government to enforce temperature checks, mask protection and health declarations for staff and guests.

Starbucks (SBUX.O) has said it regularly sterilizes containers and that its delivery staff have their temperature taken daily. Global food chains including McDonald’s (MCD.N) have started contact-less delivery in China, where the virus originated.

Walmart's announcement comes a day after warehouse, delivery and retail gig workers in the United States went on strike to call attention to safety and wage concerns for people laboring through the coronavirus crisis. (reut.rs/2wU47Z1)Rival Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) has come under fire for its treatment of workers during the crisis. On Monday, fifteen workers at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York, walked off the job following reports of coronavirus cases among the facility's staff.

Walmart’s Bartlett said he did not have a number to share on the total number of cases at its stores and warehouses. He said the company is trying to track them down as there is no policy requiring workers to inform the retailer.

He also said Walmart continues to see a “lot of pressure” for essential items such as household cleaning supplies and toilet paper. “It’s just an astonishing volume that we are going through.”

Reporting by Aishwarya Venugopal in Bengaluru and Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Anil D'Silva and Devika Syamnath

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