Covid: Supermarkets revealed as place visitors and workers most likely to be exposed to coronavirus in PHE data

Supermarkets were the most common location reported by people testing positive for Covid-19, new data shows.

Supermarkets are the most frequent common exposure setting for those catching coronavirus in England, new data reveals. Figures collated by Public Health England (PHE) using the NHS Test and Trace app showed that supermarkets were the most common location reported by people testing positive for Covid-19.

Of those who tested positive for Covid-19 between November 9 and 15, 1,796 (18.3%) of them said they had visited a supermarket.

Secondary schools were second with 1,240 people testing positive between November 9 and 15 after having visited.

By analysing the contacts and retracing the steps of the 128,808 people who'd reported they had tested positive between 9 November and 15 November, PHE has uncovered where transmission is likely to be happening.

A view of toilet tissue on shelves at a supermarket in Kent in September 2020. Credit: PA

However, Isabel Oliver, Director of the National Infection Service at Public Health England said it would be inaccurate to suggest that supermarkets are causing the virus to spread.

She said: "Common exposure data does not prove where people are contracting Covid-19.

"It simply shows where people who have tested positive have been in the days leading up to their test and it is used to help identify possible outbreaks."

During England's lockdown which began on November 5, supermarkets have remained open for shoppers. The new data set suggests they are now the primary setting where the disease is being transmitted.

Around 9,789 common locations were reported in total, with the percentage of the most frequent types of settings listed below.

Proportion of all common locations reported in PHE data:

  • Supermarket - 18.3%

  • Secondary school - 12.7%

  • Primary school - 10.1%

  • Hospital - 3.6%

  • Care home - 2.8%

  • College - 2.4%

  • Warehouse - 2.2%

  • Nursery preschool - 1.8%

  • Pub or bar - 1.6%

  • Hospitality - 1.5%

  • University - 1.4%

  • Manufacture engineering - 1.4%

  • Household fewer than five - 1.2%

  • General practice - 1.1%

  • Gym - 1.1%

  • Restaurant or cafe - 1.0%

It comes as a government adviser has warned that mixing at Christmas poses “substantial risks”, particularly for older people, and there is “far too much emphasis” on having a normal festive period.

And another top scientific adviser said she thinks "some sort" of Christmas is possible, but may require enhanced measures either side of the festive period to allow people to be briefly reunited with their family's over the holidays.

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