Supermarkets begin food rationing after wave of coronavirus-fuelled panic buying. Beginning of Sorrows.
Tesco to limit items including baked beans and pasta after customers strip shelves bare
ByLaura Sharman ; Patrick Sawer, SENIOR NEWS REPORTER and Sarah Newey 7 March 2020 • 8:07pm thetelegraph.co.uk
Supermarkets have begun rationing food as a result of coronavirus panic buying.
Tesco is limiting the amount of baked beans, dry pasta and UHT milk its customers can buy to ensure they have enough supply, as its shelves were emptied across Britain.
On Saturday the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Britain rose to 206, with scientists warning diagnoses are doubling every other day. On its current trajectory, experts fear the UK could breach 1,500 by the end of the week.
Supermarkets have been forced to act after their shelves were plundered again on Saturday, with customers reporting shortages of ready meals, toilet roll and paracetamol.
The Government is also expected to announce plans to alert supermarkets before the general public if they are in coronavirus hotspots, to help avoid empty aisles.
Retailers have reassured ministers they have robust plans in place to minimise disruption and are continuing to monitor their supply chains.
Sainsbury’s and Asda have also seen their aisles stripped bare of soap and toilet paper, while online hand sanitiser products were selling for more than 5,000 per cent of their recommended retail price online, with bottles worth 49p going for £24.99. Further trends of panic buying include sugar, flour, eggs, rice, vitamins, cold and flu tablets, and cleaning products.
The Environment Secretary will meet with retailers on Monday to discuss support for vulnerable groups who may be in isolation and any other areas where government can offer support.
Another 43 coronavirus cases were confirmed throughout the UK on Saturday raising the total to 206 – a near doubling of the 115 cases confirmed on Thursday.
Prof Sheila Bird, formerly programme leader at the MRC Biostatistics Unit, University of Cambridge, said that the UK’s cumulative total “is currently doubling roughly every two days”.
If that continues the number of confirmed infections in the UK could hit 412 by Monday and continue to skyrocket. By next Friday some 1,600 people could have the virus and by Tuesday March 17 the figure could be as many as 6,592.
She called for health officials to provide more information on the pattern of the outbreak as a way of providing clues as to which groups in the population were most affected.
Saturday’s rise came after the chief scientific adviser confirmed the infection was now spreading person to person as part of an outbreak in Britain, having been initially limited to infections brought in from abroad.
Sir Patrick Vallance said on Friday: “This is the start of an outbreak clearly. We are in the position now where we have got person-to-person transmission of this in the UK and therefore we can expect more cases.”
Already two people have died from the virus in Britain, a grandfather in his 80s in Milton Keynes and a woman in her 70s in Reading.
Last night, the family of the grandfather described the “nightmare” of having to self-isolate themselves, unable to grieve as they would wish or to arrange a funeral.
They said he died at Milton Keynes Hospital shortly after being advised on Thursday evening that he had tested positive but said the cause of death had not been confirmed.
Five of the new cases were in the East of England, while Cornwall had its second confirmed case – a resident linked to the first case who had also travelled to Northern Italy.
A school in Chatham, Kent, has shut after two pupils contracted coronavirus. St John Fisher School told parents buildings would be deep cleaned this week following confirmation of the two cases.
The crisis also forced the cancellation of a marmalade festival in Dalemain, Cumbria, which was expected to attract thousands of international visitors. Jane Hasell-McCosh, the festival’s founder, said it had been an “extraordinarily difficult decision to make”.