Hundreds of shoppers were seen lined up outside supermarkets before the doors opened today after retailers enforced strict rationing measures to deal with a surge in panic-buying.
Retailers have stressed there is plenty of food in the supply chain but shoppers need to act responsibly to ensure everyone can get what they need, particularly the most vulnerable who may find regular shopping difficult.
Meanwhile, several supermarkets have introduced shopping hours exclusively for the elderly at the start of the day. It comes amid a surge of coronavirus cases across the country, with 104 deaths and London facing a possible lockdown.
‘Silver hour’ at a Sainsbury’s in North Sheen in Richmond, London this morning
Shoppers queuing outside a Sainsbury’s in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, which was hosting an elderly-only hour this morning
A Sainsbury’s in London also saw large queues of people outside this morning as supermarkets took measures to ration certain products
Older shoppers walked past empty shelves that had stocked loo roll at a Sainsbury’s in Norwich today
A Tesco Extra in Mansfield at 3.30am this morning, as supermarkets struggled to keep up with the dramatic increase in demand
SUPERMARKETS REACT TO CORONAVIRUS CRISIS
Will impose restrictions on all customers to buying a maximum of three products per line from Thursday.
Limit for key products; disinfectants, hand sanitisers, long life milk, tinned vegetables and pasta.
It was forced to take its mobile app offline temporarily due to high demand on Tuesday, and announced it would be reducing the hours of all of its 24-hour stores to 6am to 10pm.
Limit of between 2 and 12 units across 400 products, mainly toiletries, cleaning products, tinned food and pasta.
The supermarket also said it was drafting in 1,200 staff ‘and growing’ from sister retailer John Lewis to help it cope with demand.
Rationed purchases on 1,250 items.
Limit of 2 per customer for toilet rolls, tissues, hand sanitisers; 4 for baby milk formula, bars of soap, handwash; 6 for bleach and other cleaners.
Shoppers seeking a Morrisons home delivery have been instructed to tell the store if they are self-isolating so goods can be left on the doorstep.
Creating 3,500 jobs to meet surging demand for its home delivery service.
Recruiting 2,500 pickers and drivers while hiring about 1,000 people to work in distribution centres.
Plans for new call centre for those without access to online shopping, plus the launch of a new range of simple-to-order food parcels from next Monday.
Restricting all customers to buying up to three items on all food, toiletries and cleaning products.
The limit will not apply to fresh fruit/vegetables.
Close cafes and pizza counters to free space and staff to help keep shelves fully stocked.
Temporarily reduced opening hours of all its 24-hour stores, so they will be closed between 12am and 6am each day for re-stocking.
Limiting shoppers to three items.
A cap of two is going to be imposed on the most popular items, such as toilet roll, soap and UHT milk.
600 stores will only open to the elderly and vulnerable for the first hour of trading on Thursday, but will open for an hour longer so other shoppers do not miss out.
Meat, fish and pizza counters and cafes are being closed from Thursday to free up lorry and warehouse capacity, as well as shelf-stacking time, for essential items to be replenished.
Plans in place to beef up ‘click and collect’ service, and these two groups will be given priority access when new slots become available.
Hand sanitisers and some cleaning products, four per person, online
Supermarkets allowed elderly customers exclusive use of the shop between 9am and 11am before the general public were allowed in.
The scheme, which will run every Wednesday until further notice, has been rolled out at Iceland stores across the country.
In Boots, bottles of children’s paracetamol Calpol were being sold at only one at a time.
Limit of 2 per customer on essentials including hand sanitiser, soap, antibacterial wipes, toilet/kitchen roll, tinned goods, pasta, rice, Long Life milk, sugar, baby items.
Limit of 4 units for every product from milk and bread to baked beans.
Quantities may be restricted to 6 per customer.
Limit of 2 for antibacterial handwash, hand sanitiser, antibacterial cleaning sprays and wipes, tissues, toilet roll and kitchen roll.
The biggest chains were dramatically stepping up rationing measures yesterday amid the stockpiling as millions prepare for weeks of home quarantine. The demand has also led to angry scenes as people battled over household essentials.
Stores are imposing strict limits on the purchase of essentials from baby formula and nappies to paracetamol, hand sanitisers, cleaning products, tinned food, long life milk, pasta and toilet rolls.
And, yesterday, the country’s biggest supermarkets, Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s, went much further with new limits of three items across all food and grocery products.
It came as Ocado last night shut down its website and app after being swamped with orders. Customers will not be able to book a new delivery or edit existing orders until Saturday, at the earliest.
Supermarkets have held emergency talks with police forces to ensure urgent help amid concerns that aggressive shoppers have left staff in tears and fearing for their safety.
The incidents raise worries the country could see the emergence of food riots that were controversially predicted at the beginning of the crisis.
Waitrose has set a maximum cap of between two and 12 items across as many as 400 products.
And Morrisons, which has seen a 15 per cent rise in sales in the past two weeks, is putting a cap on purchases across 1,200 products. These include a limit of four per customer for packs of baby milk formula.
Similar restrictions are being imposed by other retailers. Aldi is not allowing people to buy more than four of any product line.
Restrictions are also being applied to online orders amid a surge in demand for home deliveries. The rush to buy provisions online means some firms do not have delivery slots available for up to six weeks.
The British Retail Consortium said stores were talking to the police about how to cope with any violence. Its director of food and sustainability, Andrew Opie, said: ‘Retailers are well versed in providing effective security measures. We will continue to work with police to protect customers and employees.’
Items that are now selling out, and subsequently being rations, at supermarkets up and down the country, include long-life milk, cleaning fluids, toilet rolls and pasta
Customers queue to pay for their shopping today in an Asda supermarket in West Bridgford, Nottingham
Elderly people wait for a Sainsbury’s supermarket in Hertford to open to stock up on essentials today
Older customers queue outside a Sainsbury’s in Leamington Spa today for a so-called ‘silver hour’
There was a queue of hundreds of shoppers outside a Sainsbury’s this morning in Norwich, Cheshire
In other safety measures, supermarkets are asking customers to stop using cash, which can carry the virus. Pictured are queues outside Sainsbury’s in Leamington Spa
Retailers have stressed there is plenty of food but shoppers need to act responsibly to ensure everyone can get what they need. Pictured are shoppers outside a London Sainsbury’s today
Queues outside an Asda supermarket in Cardiff as people got up early to stock up on essentials
The extension of rationing is part of a much wider effort by the supermarkets to ensure they maintain the nation’s food supplies.
For example, Tesco and Asda are ending 24 hour opening at hundreds of outlets to allow staff time to re-stock shelves through the night.
And some, such as Iceland, are setting aside one hour at the beginning of the day for older customers, who fear contamination, to shop in peace without any pushing and shoving.
The proportion of Britons who admit to hoarding essentials has risen from one in ten to one in four over the past two weeks.
Sainsbury’s chief executive Mike Coupe, said: ‘We have enough food coming into the system, but are limiting sales so that it stays on shelves for longer and can be bought by a larger numbers of customers.’
In other safety measures, supermarkets are asking customers to stop using cash, which can carry the virus, and pay by card or smartphone to protect staff at the tills.