Shoppers are being urged to expect a warm welcome and hand sanitiser when the high street reopens this week.

A trip to the shops is now one of the places where people are most likely to be exposed to COVID-19, and latest figures suggest that in the past month there were more than 800 Hertfordshire residents with the virus whose infection can be traced back to a shopping trip.

As high streets plan to reopen at the end of lockdown, many residents will be planning to head out to prepare for Christmas.

And as part of an ongoing drive to halt the spread of the virus, Hertfordshire’s Health Protection Board is urging shoppers to complain if there is no sanitiser available on the way in.

“The more customers that tell retail outlets they want a safe shopping experience, especially in the run up to Christmas, the more shops will take action,” says the Board’s briefing on ‘safer shopping’.

“Tell businesses that you will make a complaint to the district/borough environmental health department if they don’t act.”

Meanwhile director of public health Jim McManus suggests shoppers remember to wear a face mask, carry sanitiser – and even keep hands in pockets during a shopping trip.

He advises shoppers to ‘shop locally’, avoid crowded stores – and says shoppers should assume they would come into contact with at least one person with Covid-19 every hour.

“I will go out and I will assume that at least once a hour there will be someone who has COVID who will touch something I will touch or be in the same shop,” he told a media briefing on Friday.

“My hands will stay in my pockets – and I will only pick up what I intend to buy.”

When purchasing an item Mr McManus advises sanitising before making a purchase or paying with a card – and then again when leaving the shop.

And he says: “If a shop is really crowded and feeling very stuffy – and the shop hasn’t set limits on the number of people who can go in – go back a bit later.

“And shopping locally is probably safer than being caught up in crowds.”

Hertfordshire Health Protection Board urges shoppers to avoid crowded aisles and not to get closer than one metre to others, even if the shop is busy, and they stress the measures are not just to keep shoppers safe – but those who work in shops too.