Young and healthy people have been urged to stay away from supermarkets and make meals from food in their cupboards as demand for groceries and household goods surges during the coronavirus lockdown.
Britons are believed to have hoarded food worth £1 billion more than normal during the past fortnight as a result of panic buying – despite assurances from the government and industry that there is still plenty of food in the supply chain.
Consumers shifted online as they feared supermarkets could become breeding grounds for the virus, as after panic-buyers stripped shelves bare, stockpiling everything from pasta to toilet paper,
But the move online has now led to home delivery slots being largely unavailable until mid April.
Online retailer Ocado has reported that demand for home deliveries has increased ten-fold compared with pre-crisis levels.
Chief executive of the online delivery service Stuart Rose, urged consumers to act rationally as he revealed Britons had hoarded an extra £1billion worth of food over the past couple of weeks.
He said: ‘The first thing is ‘don’t panic’. There isn’t going to be no food tomorrow. Nobody will starve.’
Rose, 71, who is also a former chairman and chief executive of clothing and food retailer Marks & Spencer, has been in self-isolation after suspecting he had contracted the virus. He ventured out for the first time in two weeks on Wednesday.
He said Britons should avoid going to supermarkets at peak hours and only buy what they need.
Rose also called on people in the country to ‘make your meals work’.
‘If you buy a chicken, roast the chicken, have the roast chicken dinner, the following day turn it into a stir fry, the following day make it into soup,’ he said.
‘You can make a relatively small amount of food go a long way and I think we live in a very profligate society today – we buy too much, we eat too much, we consume too much and we have to learn new ways.’
In other coronavirus updates across the UK:
- Hope is growing the Government’s lockdown order is working as daily coronavirus death rate halves to 43 compared to 87 on Tuesday
- Prof Neil Ferguson, whose advice prompted he lockdown predicts the UK’s coronavirus crisis could be over by Easter
- The self-employed finally get help as Chancellor Rishi Sunak announces rescue package worth up to £1,700 a month
- However, homebuyers face heartbreak as the housing market suffers due to coronavirus lockdown restrictions
- The government orders 10,000 ventilators from Dyson after the British firm designs new life-saving machine
Huge queues wait patiently as they keep a safe distance outside the ASDA supermarket in Byker, Newcastle upon Tyne
Hundreds of shoppers were queuing outside a Morrison’s supermarket in Canning Town east London today as people attempted to adhere to the Government’s social distancing rules
These shoppers waiting to access a Tesco supermarket in London are adhering strictly to social distancing rules. The retailer placed marks on the floor to show the six foot six distance people should stay apart to reduce the risk of spreading the virus
UK retailers such as Sainsbury’s have implemented special access for NHS staff at their stores. This was the scene outside the Sainsbury’s store in Charlton this morning
Ocado has reported the demand on its service is ten times that compared with the period before the coronavirus crisis
Some users have complained they cannot get a delivery slot before April 15, with only click and collect available
Asda has announced it is increasing the amount customers can pay using contactless cards from £30 to £45 from April 1st.
The firm is also installing perspex barriers at checkouts to protect its staff from possible infection.
The company’s CEO Roger Burnley said they were also closing some of the self-service checkout terminals so customers can remain two metres apart when paying for their goods.
The boss of the UK’s biggest retailer Tesco, Dave Lewis, has written to customers to reassure them there is still plenty of food, but asking the young and the healthy to venture out to their local store.
Users of the retail giant’s online service have complained they are unable to secure a home delivery slot.
In his letter, he has asked those who can venture out to shop in-store – while taking appropriate precautions.
The Government has tried to assure consumers that there is plenty of food available, though photographs on social media of empty shelves have prompted further panic buying, forcing some supermarkets to restrict the sale of some goods, such as toilet rolls.
In response to the ongoing crisis, the government has loosened restrictions on delivering to supermarkets, while the major retailers have implemented restricted opening hours to allow them time to restock shelves.
Also, firms such as Tesco and Lidl are trying to recruit thousands of temporary staff to help them cope with the additional demand.
The retailer has created sanitisation stations at the entrance to its stores where shoppers can wipe down the handles of their trolleys or baskets with a virus-killing gel.
Mr Lewis admitted there have been problems with the online service because of the overwhelming demand.
He wrote: ‘We also need your help to change the way you shop with us.
‘Try to shop with no more than one other person, which will help to reduce the number of people in-store at any one time.
‘Please use our cleaning stations to wipe your trolley, basket…If possible, use card or contactless payments.
‘Please avoid shopping during our dedicated times for vulnerable and elderly people, and NHS workers, and be kind to our colleagues as they’re working hard to serve you.’
Mr Lewis confirmed that the online shopping system has been overwhelmed. He asked people who are fit and healthy to use stores in order to free-up delivery slots for online orders to the elderly and vulnerable.
In Tesco’s in Lewis, East Sussex, the company was operating a ‘one in, one out’ policy after it opened this morning at 6.30am
Customers in Lewes appeared to be adhering to social distancing rules while they wait to access the store in Lewes
At the Morrison’s store in Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear, this worker provided hand sanitiser to customers queuing to go shopping this morning
This Sainsbury’s store in Peterborough has placed markings on the floor to make it easier for customers to adhere to the social distancing rules
Outside the Sainsbury’s supermarket in Greenwich, staff patrolled the car park to advise customers to stay apart
He said the retailer was at ‘full capacity’ and expected this situation to continue for the next couple of weeks.
He said the firm was looking to increase the number of delivery slots in an effort to satisfy demand.
Ocado has been operating at full capacity during the crisis. It said on Tuesday it had around ten times more demand for its services than it did before the outbreak began.
During the crisis, elderly and vulnerable shoppers have complained they have been unable to get delivery slots for online shopping from Britain’s supermarkets.
That has prompted market leader Tesco to ask Britons who are able to safely come to stores to do so, instead of shopping online, so it can free up more slots for the more vulnerable.
Rose stopped short of telling young and able Ocado shoppers to go elsewhere.
‘If you’ve had customers who’ve been regular customers for you for 10, 15 years, we can’t just dump those customers,’ he said.
Rose also noted that after the government relaxed competition rules there was ‘enormous’ co-operation between all retailers at present.
‘If you see an unprecedented increase in demand, it’s incredibly difficult to make the adjustments. But we are all trying, and we are working and co-operating together.’
These shoppers pictured this morning outside a Tesco supermarket in West London are queuing to get in while keeping a sufficient distance apart in order to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus
Supermarkets have placed staff at the entrance to control access to prevent overcrowding on the aisles
Many supermarkets, such as Morrisons in Whitely Bay, pictured this morning, have placed temporary barriers outside their store to regulate queues waiting to access the shop and to encourage social distancing
The Co-op has announced new measures to enforce social distancing in its stores in a bid to protect customers and staff from the spread of coronavirus.
The retail giant has introduced a range of measures across its 2,600 stores, including floor markers which will define a one-metre distance throughout the store and two-metre spacing for customer queues.
The Co-op is also aiming to limit the number of customers in stores at any one time as well as reducing the number of tills open, to allow greater distance between shoppers.
Chris Whitfield, the Co-op’s chief operating officer, said: ‘The safety and wellbeing of our colleagues is our priority and we fully support the need for social distancing.
‘We have introduced a number of measures in store, which will be reviewed on a daily basis, and we thank our customers for their understanding and support.
‘We are immensely proud of our frontline colleagues and the work they are doing at this unprecedented time to serve our customers, members and local communities but we urge our customers to follow the Government advice to only shop for essential items and to be considerate of others when they are shopping.’
The company added that to encourage the message to stay at home, Co-op stores will have reduced opening hours which will give staff time to re-stock and is encouraging contactless shopping where possible to reduce the handling of cash and speed up checkout.
Additional hand sanitiser, antibacterial wipes and soap have been provided to all stores.
Some shoppers at Morrisons in Whitley Bay have been using masks, while others queue patiently for access to the store
Farmers warn of food shortages as travel bans restrict the number of workers available to pick crops
British workers have been urged to fill the gap of seasonal foreign workers by picking fruit and vegetables this summer.
George Eustice, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said it was ‘critically important’ there was a supply of seasonal workers for the British agricultural industry.
According to the British Growers Association, there was a need for around 70,000 seasonal staff a year.
They said that due to the new post-Brexit points-based immigration system being introduced, there was just 10,000 permits available under a seasonal workers’ pilot scheme for non-UK nationals – a shortfall of around 60,000.
The Government announcement comes as the travel and movement restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic have caused labour shortages as the picking season starts.
While supermarkets have introduced restrictions on certain products, having become overwhelmed by panic buying as shoppers rush to stock up.
‘Our farmers are doing a fantastic job of feeding the nation during this immensely challenging time,’ Mr Eustice said.
‘I have been speaking with industry today and in the last week about the critically important issue of seasonal workers, who usually come from Europe to pick fruit and vegetables.
‘We need to mobilise the British workforce to fill that gap and make sure our excellent fruit and vegetables are on people’s plates over the summer months.
‘There are already brilliant recruitment efforts under way by industry and I would encourage as many people as possible to sign up.
‘We will also be looking at other ways to make sure farmers have support they need ahead of the busy harvest months, while also keeping workers safe and protected.’
Meanwhile Conservative MP Ian Liddell-Grainger called for the creation of a new Land Army to help alleviate the current problems.
He said some of the thousands of people who are temporarily without work because of the Covid-19 epidemic could harvest vegetables and fruit.
And he has called for the creation of a simplified, web-based scheme to match agricultural employers with potential staff.
In World War Two, 80,000 women joined the Land Army to help cover labour shortages in agriculture.
French government officials have launched an appeal for temporary farm workers to come forward after farming unions warned producers would be short of 200,000 staff this spring because of a ban on bringing in foreign labour.
Mr Liddell-Grainger, MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, said the creation of a similar workforce this side of the Channel would help farmers head off the threat of tons of fruit and vegetables going unpicked over the next few months.
‘The NFU president has been warning of the problems farmers are facing because of a foreign labour shortage but I would have thought that here, surely, is a simple solution which the NFU itself could adopt,’ he said.
‘But it has to be a no-frills operation. We cannot load farmers up with more onerous paperwork because they have more than enough on their plates at the moment.
‘These are desperate times and the Government is tearing up the rules on a daily basis to get us through them, so a few more torn ones aren’t going to make a heap of difference.
‘The difference this scheme could make, however, is that between the nation continuing to be fed and some serious and prolonged food shortages.
‘I am certain there will be thousands of people dreading the tedium of having to stay at home for weeks and who would welcome the chance of a temporary job in the fresh air, particularly since social distancing is generally far easier to achieve when people are working outdoors.’