Supermarket bosses launched a plea for calm among shoppers yesterday after a wave of panic-buying around the country cleared shelves as people stockpiled for the expected coronavirus epidemic.
The chaotic scenes, with people scrabbling to load up with loo rolls, long-life milk and pasta, have led to rationing by the major shop chains – and triggered alarm in No 10.
The issue has been high on the agenda of Boris Johnson’s COBRA emergency meetings on the crisis, with the Army being readied as a contingency to guard supermarkets and secure food convoys.
More than one third of shoppers have said they are stockpiling produce.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC), which represents most of Britain’s supermarkets, said the rise in demand for certain products was ‘unprecedented outside of the Christmas period’, with the difference that it was focused mainly on ‘hygiene and longer shelf-life food products’.
Trolleys piled high for delivery are seen as shoppers queue at an Asda checkout, while – in the background – stock from orders made by online customers is piled up in spare trolleys for delivery. Supermarkets are under huge pressure to meet demand
Shoppers were seen in winding lines outside Savers supermarket in Wood Green, London, as they tried to get their hands on toilet roll, hand sanitiser and tinned goods amid nation-wide panic as Covid-19 grips the country
Panic-buying Britons are seen in a Tesco in the capital, forming a huge queue as some push trolleys piled high with essentials during the pandemic hysteria. One man (pictured front right) seeks to buy three mega packs of toilet paper
In Tesco Extra in Surrey Quays, southeast London, shoppers bought in bulk like never before. It is believed that people are seeking out extra food in preparation for possible self-isolation or quarantine as Covid-19 sweeps the UK
Crowds gathered on paths beside Sainsbury’s in Ladbroke Grove and Savers in Wood Green, both London, as the threat of a lockdown looms. People appear gripped by the prospect of facing self-isolation or quarantine, and are bulk-buying now
British Retail Consortium members sent a letter to consumers asking everyone to work together to ensure there is enough food for the country. With scenes like the above – empty toilet roll shelves – supermarkets are begging the public for calm
Food retailers have urged customers, some of whom waited outside Wood Green’s Savers before its doors opened to buy extra stock, to shop responsibly during the coronavirus outbreak as shelves are left stripped of goods
The rampage has led to extraordinary scenes such as the man from Bath who was pictured wearing a combat-style hazmat suit while carrying 27 toilet rolls out of a shop.
In a joint letter to customers, the BRC asked them to display calm and consideration. The letter, which is published in today’s Mail on Sunday, says: ‘We know that many of you are worried about the spread of coronavirus.
‘We want to let you know that we are doing everything we can so that you and your families have the food and essentials you need. But we need your help too.
‘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.
‘There is enough for everyone if we all work together.
‘Together we can make sure we are looking out for family, friends, neighbours. Together we will care for those around us and those who are elderly, vulnerable or choosing to remain at home.
‘We are doing all we can to rise to this challenge. Serving you and keeping you and everyone who works with us safe will always be our priority.’
This message to shoppers from Britain’s leading supermarkets asks people to be considerate and to not buy more than they need. Part of the letter says: ‘We are doing all we can to rise to this challenge’
Shelves in Tesco are decimated amid the rampage of panic-buying, with stock left on the supermarket floor and a spare trolley is abandoned in the chaos, as Britain sinks into coronavirus hysteria
Shoppers appeared stressed and even unhappy as they rammed self-checkout stores in Tesco in southeast London
Pasta shelves in Sainsbury’s emptied as scores of shoppers rampaged through the store amid coronavirus pandemic, days after PM Boris Johnson told the nation that Covid-19 is ‘the worst public health crisis in a generation’
A man stands in front of empty aisles as he tries to stock up amid panic-buying problems across the country
Shoppers wait in line for a supermarket to open its doors at Tesco in London, as the UK sinks into coronavirus hysteria
Former Labour MP Luciana Berger was one of a number of social media users who said they were appalled by the behaviour of shoppers.
She wrote on Twitter: ‘A man in Golders Green Sainsbury’s wouldn’t give an elderly lady just one of a number of packets of dry pasta he had grabbed.
‘He said no when she asked him politely. Very upsetting. We need a national kindness effort to lookout for the elderly, infirm and vulnerable.’
Another wrote: ‘Ridiculous scenes in Tesco Colney Hatch this morning. Shelves cleared like there’s been a riot.
‘The selfishness of some people filling their trolleys with multiple packs and leaving none for others is staggering.’
Firms are working closely with the Government and suppliers, and have arranged more store deliveries to ensure shelves are stocked. It is believed that people are bulk-buying now in case they have to self-isolate or quarantine
Shoppers panic-buying toilet rolls in Savers. One woman buys excess toilet roll
Shelves have been completely stripped across the country, with this Sainsbury’s store in London looking bare. It comes as PM Boris Johnson told the nation Covid-19 is the ‘worst public health crisis in a generation’ and said millions would be infected
The surge in panic buying has led Tesco – Britain’s biggest supermarket – to ration the sale of anti-bacterial products, dried pasta, tinned vegetables, toilet paper and tissues to five packs at a time.
In Boots, bottles of children’s paracetamol Calpol are being sold at only one at a time. Retailers have tried to reassure consumers that the country will not run out of loo roll because the UK is a major exporter of the product – shipping £103million worth of the product to countries around the world last year.
Tesco chairman John Allan insisted that Britain’s supermarkets will be able to keep the country fed throughout the coronavirus crisis.
He said: ‘There’s plenty of product in the supply chain, there’s plenty of food at Tesco and other supermarkets, and I don’t think anybody needs to panic buy.
‘We, and I’m sure our competitors, are re-filling our supply chains as rapidly as we can.’
Shopper is mugged for his toilet paper in broad daylight outside London shop as supermarkets across Britain have shelves stripped bare amid coronavirus panic
A 56-year-old shopper was mugged for his toilet paper just moments after leaving a store in London as panic about the coronavirus epidemic leads to wide-spread stockpiling.
Dinendra was leaving a Savers store in Harringay, north London, around 3.30pm when someone ran up behind him and snatched one of the two toilet rolls he was carrying.
He was left shaken after the broad-daylight attack and lodged a report with the police – but insists ‘it’s not the value of the toilet roll, its the principle’.
Dinendra – who only went into the story to buy toilet paper – said: ‘I went to my local savers and bought two packs of toilet rolls. Someone came up from behind and stole one packet in broad daylight.
‘I was shaken and shocked. Is that what we have come to? Its not the value of the toilet roll, its the principle. I’m concerned about the vulnerable people, the elderly. In terms of their health and their emotions as well.’
The panic hitting the UK’s high streets reached fever pitch with one man from Bath, who was pictured dressed in a combat-style hazmat suit carrying 27 toilet rolls. And in one Asda in South Wales, the doomsday song The Final Countdown was even blasted out of the shop’s sound system.
‘In the face of unprecedented demand as a result of coronavirus, food retailers have come together to ask their customers to support each other to make sure everyone can get access to the products they need.’
Dinendra – who was mugged outside the Savers shop in Harringay – insists ‘it’s not the value of the toilet roll, its the principle’
The Savers shop Dinendra was shopping in saw huge crowds forming long queues as worried shoppers stocked up on goods
The mugging comes as panic about the coronavirus epidemic leads to wide-spread stockpiling (pictured, London)
Toilet roll shelves have been completely raided at Sainsbury’s in London immediately after it opened at 7am
Consumers shop in near empty aisles of a supermarket in London on Friday, with numerous empty packages left by the aisle