The coronavirus crisis did not stop Dorchester's weekly market as it set up yesterday with a handful of stalls.

The organiser claimed that market stalls offer a safer shopping alternative to local supermarkets.

Stalls were limited, selling mostly fresh fruit, vegetables, bread and other essential goods and precautions were taken to encourage customers, through signs and marking tape, to keep their distance.

Dorchester Police attended the scene and challenged the queuing systems but noted that stall holders were quick to cooperate and amended their queues to fit in with social distancing guidelines.

Speaking after visiting the site, a Dorchester Police spokesman: "I have just engaged with stallholders at the Dorchester Market. Seeing that some members of the public were not practicing 2 metre distancing I made suggestions to mark out queuing systems. All stallholders really on board with ideas and marked queue spots with boxes or tape. Some stalls had already conducted good risk assessment before my arrival."

Many markets throughout the country are shutting down for the duration of the coronavirus outbreak, however Keith Parker, who organises the Dorchester Market, argues that market stalls offer a safer shopping alternative to local supermarkets.

Mr Parker said: "It offers a service to people who don't want to be in a cramped supermarket. It's a lot safer. I was in a supermarket on Monday and it was cramped.

"There were big queues at the checkouts and there were people standing in the middle of aisles so you had to get close just to get past them. Here there's plenty of space for people to keep two metres away and you're out in the fresh air.

"We've spread the stalls out so people aren't on top of each other, there's only about eight stalls here today and there's a good 20 foot distance between them.

"It's essentially just fresh food, fruit and veg and bread. This has been a problem in the supermarkets, half of the time you're in the supermarket you're walking around looking for something you've gone in there to buy and it's not even there.

"People weren't given much warning since this was only announced on Monday, we managed to comply to the guidelines quite well and quite quickly, got the precautions, the tape and signage out instructing people to keep two metres away from each other."

When questioned on concerns that the market may attract higher-risk age group, Mr Parker claimed that the age range of market customers was very mixed.

He added: "To me it's a much healthier situation than being in a supermarket and having to push past other people just to get to a shelf, whereas here there's so much space that you could keep 20 feet apart if you want to. I think a lot of people are beginning to realise that."