The weekly supermarket shop could be very different in future, with the prospect of new “shop alone” guidelines being brought in to discourage family shopping trips.

Defra secretary George Eustice called in supermarket bosses for emergency talks this week after experts identified the weekly grocery shop as a significant factor in the spread of Covid-19.

Morrisons, Aldi, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tesco have already announced that they would ban shoppers who refuse to wear masks and bosses are being urged to go further, with more hand sanitising stations and clearer signs to encourage people to shop alone.

The government is considering strict new guidelines

A senior government source told The Sun: “We‘re looking at ways to make supermarkets as safe as possible for both shoppers and the people who work there.

“It’s clear that some customers see the [weekly shop] as a bit of an outing. The whole family goes together and they end up talking to friends who they bump into while there.

“Often, there’s no reason why one household member can’t do the shopping.

“Unlike other shops, supermarkets are allowed to stay open because they provide food.

"People should only visit them to buy what they need – essentials. And they should not be going in groups.”

Most supermarkets are enforcing mask-wearing, but Iceland have refused, fearing violence against their staff

Tesco CEO Ken Murphy told trade magazine The Grocer that supermarkets had gone to “enormous expense” to make stores safe.

He added: “In line with other retail businesses, we have imposed even tighter rules for our customers such as reviewing limits of customers in store.”

But one supermarket chain executive warned that the stricter rules risked “demonising” managers and staff, if the measures saw a return of the long queues seen in the first lockdown.

And a spokesman for the Iceland chain said that they would not be enforcing the wearing of masks in store, because of aggressive customers, saying: “In view of the rising tide of abuse and violence directed at our store colleagues, we do not expect them to confront the small minority of customers who aggressively refuse to comply with the law.”