The novel coronavirus has had an intense influence on our lives in many ways. With almost all economic activities now operating online amid the ongoing pandemic, digital platforms have become essential for work, entertainment and our daily needs.
When the nationwide 'general holiday' aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 within Bangladesh began on March 26, Muhammad Shahed, a resident of Uttara sector-5 in Dhaka, burrowed himself away at home to avoid infection.
During the two-month shutdown, Shahed used the online communication platform 'Zoom' to attend office meetings while he shopped for daily essentials through the online portals of various superstores. To fulfil his entertainment needs, Shahed subscribed to streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.
However, later in May, Shahed began to lose patience with the government's stay-at-home orders and started yearning to go outdoors. But despite all the possible protective measures he could take, Shahed still felt that he could risk infection by stepping outside.
There is recent development though that amazed Shahed and boosted his confidence on being able to once again, physically visit his preferred superstore up to two or three times a week.
Sepnil, the health and hygiene brand of consumer giant Square, has installed disinfection kits on the shopping trolleys used at various superstores across Dhaka.
Since the handlebars used to direct trolleys are high-contact areas, it is possible to transmit the virus through repeated use. Now though, customers can disinfect the handlebar by using the disinfection kit attached to the cart before use.
Two use the kit, one simply needs to press the two buttons found on each side of the round apparatus before swiping over the areas which require disinfection.
"The trolleys used at superstores are used by many people. So, amid the ongoing pandemic, there is a constant voice in my head reminding me that I can't touch my face after touching the handlebar," Shahed said.
"Recently though, I noticed the 'Sepnil's disinfect kit' attached to each trolley and it has given be relief while I carry on shopping," he added.
Considering how terrified people have become about being exposed to the coronavirus, Sepnil, which churned out the first locally made hand sanitiser over a decade ago, wants to help provide superstore customers with a safe shopping environment.
"Many people visit supermarkets. It is difficult to know who is infected and who is not. The virus can spread from the shopping trolley at any time. So, we have taken this step to relieve the worries of the shoppers," said Shadman Wasi, brand manager for Sepnil, a branch of Square Toiletries.
Sepnil has already installed the kit on trolleys across 38 outlets of various superstores for free as a part of its corporate social responsibility.
"When the disinfectant within the kit is finished, our agents refill it immediately," Wasi said.
Not long after the COVID-19 outbreak began in Bangladesh, the demand for hygiene products soared manifold.
Besides, since one of the guidelines to prevent infection is to frequently wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds, people opt for hand sanitisers that require a mere 30 seconds to get the job done.
To cater to the swelling demand, Square Toiletries increased its production capacity ten-fold and can now produce 15 to 20 tonnes of hand sanitisers daily.
Sepnil recently introduced four new hand washing packs as well, taking the number of packs offered by the brand to eight.
The company also introduced 6 new bottles of hand sanitiser to take the total number of variations to eight.
To provide customers with a solution that disinfects surfaces, the company rolled out the Sepnil Disinfectant Spray, which is 99.99 per cent affective in killing germs, including the coronavirus.
It also controls the formation of mould or mildew on mattresses, pillows and shower curtains.
A 300ml bottle of the spray carries a price tag of Tk 350 and is comprised of about 70 per cent ethyl alcohol, perfume, butane and propane.
"I hope now people can shop at supermarkets more safely," Wasi said, adding that the brand will soon introduce a number of new products that will help customers in their fight against the deadly pathogen.