UK Supermarkets Will Be Able to Deliver Through the Night in Wake of Coronavirus Hoarding

A woman with a face mask stands near empty stalls in a supermarket in the Qwartz shopping centre in Villeneuve-la-Garenne, north of Paris, on March 2, 2020. - Supermarket shelves in countries affected by the COVID-19 virus have been emptied of basic necessities, such as pasta and toilet paper, in …
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The UK government will lift environmental restrictions on the logistics operations behind major supermarkets, after apparent panic-buying of hygiene items, including toilet roll and hand sanitiser, meant demand was outstripping supply in some areas.

While supermarkets are normally restricted in the hours they are permitted to make deliveries to their premises to reduce noise and disruption to local residents, the government will relax these restrictions to make restocking the shelves easier. The outbreak of coronavirus has seen a significant surge in demand for a range of products, and environment minister George Eustice has agreed to give retailers more freedom to work around the clock to keep the logistics chain free.

The government may also relax rules on how many hours a day delivery drivers are permitted to work to get extra capacity in the system, reports the BBC. Further developments may see to-home grocery deliveries extended to get food to those quarantined at home, with drops being made to domestic addresses through the night.

Supermarkets may urge even further steps, reports Sky News, which states that at least one supermarket will call on the government to suspend competition regulations which prevent large retailers from collaborating in organising deliveries. This may become necessary if one or more supermarket supply chain is hit by coronavirus, the supermarket is expected to argue.

The move came after shoppers cleared shelves in some supermarkets of basics including toilet roll, hand sanitiser, and long-life foods. While a government spokesman has said “There is absolutely no need for anybody to stockpile or anything like that… We are confident that supermarkets have the supply chains necessary to keep shelves stocked for people”, some nonetheless have raided the shelves, creating personal stockpiles.

Several images of bare shelves in supermarkets have been shared on social media and in the national press.

While the government has not stepped in to impose rationing or price controls — as they have in France, seizing all stocks of facemasks nationwide to prevent hoarding — individual supermarkets have already set limits on certain items.

Tesco, Britain’s largest supermarket, is preventing customers from buying more than five items of hand sanitiser, pasta, and long-life milk at a time. Waitrose and ASDA are also rationing hand sanitiser.

Five people have died in the United Kingdom from coronavirus, where the outbreak is proving less widespread so far than in Italy, which has the highest death toll outside of Asia. Almost 500 people have died of over 9,000 infected, and the whole country has been placed on a quarantine footing, meaning some 60 million people are under severe travel restrictions.

Announcing the quarantine Monday, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte criticised sociable young people for meeting for drinks on Friday, saying that “night life” would be curtailed under the restrictions, which are slated to last until April.

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