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CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus: UK supermarkets issue warning after stockpiling leaves shelves empty

The retailers, including Tesco and Sainsbury’s, told shoppers to be ‘considerate’

A woman pushes her trolley down empty toilet roll shelves in a supermarket in London. EPA
A woman pushes her trolley down empty toilet roll shelves in a supermarket in London. EPA

The bosses of the UK’s leading supermarkets have issued a joint statement warning shoppers to be “considerate” amid panic buying during the coronavirus pandemic.

In many supermarkets across the country, shelves with items such as toilet paper, hand sanitiser, hand wash, dried pasta and some household cleaning products are bare.

Some supermarket branches have begun limiting the number of essential items a customer can buy.

In one branch of Tesco in east London, the toilet paper shelves have been empty for over a week.

“It’s been crazy,” a staff member told The National. “We’ve been busier than at Christmas.”

More than 1,100 people in the UK are confirmed to have Covid-19 and 35 people have died with the virus, the Department of Health said on Sunday.

The UK government believes the actual number of cases is much higher, between 5,000 to 10,000.

Retail giants including Sainsbury’s, Asda, Waitrose, Tesco and Morrisons released a statement on Sunday reassuring customers that they were doing everything they can to supply food and essentials.

“We are working closely with the Government and our suppliers to keep food moving quickly through the system and making more deliveries to our stores to ensure our shelves are stocked,” the statement read.

The retailers warned that if panic-buying continued then elderly and vulnerable people could be left without essential items.

"We need your help too,” the statement continued. “We would ask everyone to be considerate in the way they shop. We understand your concerns, but buying more than is needed can sometimes mean that others will be left without.”

Food banks, which serve people in poverty with free food and essentials, have reported having low supplies. While some charities running food banks have said donations have fallen in recent days.

The Trussell Trust, which supports a network of more than 1,200 food banks across the UK, said the spread of coronavirus represented “an unprecedented challenge and an uncertain future”.

Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust, said in a statement: “It is possible that food banks will face increased demand as people lose income, at the same time as food donations drop or staff and volunteers are unavailable, because of measures rightly put in place to slow the spread of infection. All of this comes when food banks are already dealing with a record level of need for emergency food.”

The UK government is expected to ask people over 70 to self-isolate in the coming weeks.

Updated: March 15, 2020 08:32 PM

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