Supermarkets warn they won't be able to cope with deliveries to self-isolating coronavirus patients

SUPERMARKETS have warned today they wouldn't be able to cop with deliveries for people self-isolating against the coronavirus.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that the government was working closely with retailers so those self-isolating could get essential supplies.

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Experts have already warned the killer virus could leave one in five people off work at its peak – which could result in massive deliveries.

One supermarket group said they didn't think they had the ability to meet the demands.

A source told the BBC: "We can't switch a whole load of new vans on overnight."

Mr Hancock said on BBC Question Time last night: "The government has supplies of the key things that are needed. And within the food supply, we are absolutely confident that there won't be a problem there," he said.

"Crucially, we are working with the supermarkets to make sure that, if people are self-isolating, then we will be able to get the food and supplies that they need."

One source told the BBC he was "baffled" by the suggestions.

They added: "Matt Hancock has totally made up what he said about working with supermarkets. We haven't heard anything from government directly."

It comes as supermarkets plan to ration stock as part of plans to stop shoppers emptying shelves by panic buying goods during the coronavirus outbreak.

Shortages of hand soap, disinfectants, baby wipes and cupboard staples like pasta and rice have already been spotted at supermarkets including Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury's and Morrisons.

Confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK have jumped to to 90, as three more Scots have tested positive for the disease.

On Tuesday, supermarkets revealed plans to limit the amount of food customers can buy and will work with suppliers to cut back on what's on offer.

The focus will be on providing staple products, like bread and milk, rather than variety.

The new supermarket contingency plans were detailed by City analyst, Bruno Monteyne, from the investment firm Alliance Bernstein.

According to the Guardian, Mr Monteyne said a major outbreak of the virus could result in "panic buying, empty shelves and food riots."

He added that supermarkets are equipped to deal with disruption and move to a "feed-the-nation" status.

Some retailers have started to stockpiling supplies of pasta, mozarella and coffee to minimise disruption to imports from affected countries such as Italy, Spain and China.

Supermarkets have also been struggling with increased demand from shoppers, with many noticing more home delivery orders and larger than usual online shopping baskets.


Ocado has already warned customers they face delays of up to three days for deliveries as the service experiences "exceptionally high demand".

Shelves have also been wiped of hand santisers and hand wash as shoppers stockpile the germ busters.

It's estimated that hand sanitiser sales were up 255 per cent in February alone, according to research company Kantar.

PZ Cussons, the company behind the Carex brand, said that it has "significantly increased" the production of its hand gel and hand wash to meet demand.

A spokesperson said: "We continue to work closely with our retail partners to ensure they are supplied as quickly as possible."

Many retailers, including Boots and Superdrug have limited the number of hand sanitisers to two per customer.

Waitrose has put a cap on the number of cleaning products that one customer can order at one time.

The demand has seen some second-hand sellers take advantage of the low stock, such as putting hand gel which costs 50p in Lidl for sale on eBay for £40.

Other kinds of liquid soaps saw sales increase by 7 per cent, and 10 per cent more was spent on household cleaners.

One shopper on Twitter wrote how her local Sainsbury's was already out of best value pasta and toilet paper 30 minutes after doors opened.

Another reported how her nearest store was experiencing a shortage of nappies.

Andrew Opie, from the British Retail Consortium, which represents British retailers including supermarkets, told The Sun: "Our members are working as hard as they can to ensure consumers have access to whatever products they want.

"Even when circumstances are difficult, retailers are well-versed in providing effective measures to keep retail sites running smoothly, and we are working with suppliers to ensure this continues."

Even though it's possible to get by without a stockpile, plenty of people may find it reassuring to have two week's worth of essentials in case they're put in isolation.

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