The corona pandemic turned the cash register job into a front-line operation. At least, that's what some felt when the number of infections rose. While the population was forced to crawl at home and many shops closed, supermarket and drugstore workers daily dipped yeast, flour, toilet paper, and hand soap over the scanner until the shelves were empty and customers were hysterical.

In an interview with ZEIT in mid-March, a saleswoman, who we call Nadine Bach, complained: "We are the poor pigs that keep the country going." Bach and a few colleagues who work for Rewe, dm and a furniture store in the Rhein-Main area had drawn their attention to their situation in an anonymous letter. "We are not considered, even though we are most at risk," they wrote, criticizing inadequate protective measures at work and customers who disregarded the hygiene rules. In addition, some who belonged to the risk group would have to drag themselves "to the front" to work.

That was four months ago. How justified was the fear of the workers? How many got sick

A survey shows: It could have gone well again.

A survey of supermarkets and drugstores shows: It could have gone well again. Upon request, the drugstore chain dm stated that only 41 percent of its 41,000 employees had tested positive so far, i.e. about 40 people. Competitor Rossmann drew a similar balance at the beginning of July with 36 cases and 33,400 employees. However, 12 of them were infected in private settings, and only in two cases was it certain that the infection happened at work.

Rewe and Kaufland reported that the number of their infected employees was significantly below the population average in Germany. According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), 239 people have been infected per 100,000 people since the outbreak, which corresponds to a rate of 0.24 percent.

Aldi Süd did not want to give any precise information, but emphasized: "The spread of Covid-19 does not have a major impact on sick leave at Aldi Süd." Aldi Nord also said the number was "very small, there were not one deaths."

For data protection reasons, some of the companies asked refused to provide information on figures and trends, such as Budnikowsky, Lidl and Edeka.

The RKI records how many infected people there are among medical specialists in Germany (around 14,000) and among employees in care facilities (around 10,000). There are no statistics for salespeople. However, there are many indications that they have not been infected with the Sars CoV-2 virus very often.

How is the comparatively good balance of the chains to be justified? Is it thanks to the protective measures? Or were the worries exaggerated?

Heike Mains, branch manager in the drugstore dm in Hamburg-Blankenese, had nothing to do with the letter to ZEIT. But she also says that initially she went to work with a strange feeling. The team took care of the protection in the first few days, reports the 34-year-old. "One of the colleagues is married to a craftsman who got masks." Then everything went very quickly with the protective measures on the part of dm. A plastic bag with cloth masks has long been hanging in the break room every day.