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Co-op Kobe introduces 30-min shopping time for just elderlies, vulnerable people

Elderlies and others shop at a store in Kobe's Higashinada Ward, one of the 99 shops of Consumers Co-operative Kobe, which are limiting its entry to vulnerable people for the first 30 minutes of their business hours, on April 8, 2020. (Mainichi/Yoshiyuki Hirakawa)

KOBE -- Consumers Co-operative Kobe (Co-op Kobe) on April 8 began limiting entry to elderlies and other vulnerable people at its 99 stores in Hyogo Prefecture and northern Osaka Prefecture, both in western Japan, for the first 30 minutes of their business hours.

The move came after the Japanese government declared a state of emergency, and does not apply to Co-op Mini branches. The measure was implemented out of consideration for the safety of vulnerable people, such as the elderly and those with disabilities, amid prospects that there would be an increase in customers who come to buy daily necessities.

The response is the first of its kind for Kobe Co-op, based in Kobe's Higashinada Ward in Hyogo Prefecture.

At a shop in Higashinada Ward, elderly shoppers and other customers entered the facility as it opened at 10 a.m. An 81-year-old local, who was seen placing vegetables in her shopping cart, said, "I'm scared of crowds now, so I've been going to stores with fewer customers. But for the first time in a while, I can shop at ease."

Though some customers who did not fit the criteria left the store saying they hadn't been aware of the newly implemented rule, there were no major disruptions.

The 99 shops are limiting their customers to those aged 65 or older, pregnant women and people with disabilities and their helpers, for 30 minutes from their opening hours -- between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. depending on the store. Shops are not demanding that customers present any ID.

For the time being, Kobe Co-op will dispatch about 150 employees from its headquarters to the 99 shops during the special 30-minute period to call on people who do not qualify for the early shopping privileges for their understanding.

A representative for Kobe Co-op explained, "We ask for customers' understanding so that necessary products can be distributed to as many people as possible, and so that they can live in peace."

(Japanese original by Chikako Kida, Kobe Bureau)

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