Panic buying begins in UK as rice, pasta and Pot Noodle stocks run low
Empty shelves have emerged in supermarkets across the UK as shoppers begin to stockpile, despite warnings against ‘panic buying’.
Stocks of hand sanitisers, face masks and tissues have already reportedly been running low as people attempt to protect themselves from catching coronavirus, which has infected 85 people in Britain.
Boots has imposed a two-bottle limit on sanitiser gel to its customers, while toilet paper shortages have also been reported with some in Australia selling loo roll online at increased prices, including one chancer who tried to sell a single sheet ‘as new’ for £514 on Facebook Marketplace.
Prime minister Boris Johnson has urged people to continue as they normally would, with most essentials still widely available in shops. Stores often have empty shelves as they restock items, and experts believe shoppers may simply be more sensitive to seeing them as the coronavirus spreads in the UK.
Yesterday the government announced its battle plan for dealing with coronavirus and Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, advised people to remain calm and said: ‘I think the advice is that there is absolutely no reason to be doing any panic buying of any sort or going out and keeping large supplies of things.’
But the message isn’t getting through. Rice, pasta, couscous, Pot Noodles, tins of beans, bottled water and pet food – as well as chilled items including milk, butter and yoghurt – are all reportedly selling out fast.
Pharmacy shelves are also emptying of paracetamol, ibuprofen and immune-system boosting tablets such as Berocca as people prepare to fight off the flu-like illness that has claimed hundreds of lives worldwide.
Facebook and Twitter is packed with photographs of empty shelves from major supermarkets across the UK. But retailers are moving to reassure shoppers.
Andrew Opie, Director of Food & Sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said: ‘Disruption to supply chains has been limited, and the availability of products remains good. Retailers are working closely with their suppliers and monitoring consumer behaviour to anticipate changes in future demand.
‘Retailers are also taking necessary steps to meet the rise in demand for certain hygiene products.’
A Boots spokesperson said the company has seen in increase in sales of hand sanitisers but new stock is arriving in stores daily, with current stock available in their warehouses and to buy online.
They said in a statement: ‘The best way to help prevent catching a virus is by making sure that you regularly wash your hands with soap, and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth to prevent transmission from surfaces, especially after blowing your nose, sneezing and coughing. Antiviral hand foams and gel can also be useful when you are out and about.’
If food supplies do dwindle due to mass panic buying, food retail expert Bruno Monteyne, a former supply chain director at Tesco, revealed that big food stores would be making plans to transition to something known as ‘feed-the-nation’ status.
This would sees supermarkets work with suppliers to ensure shelves are well stocked with staple products, rather than the huge varieties currently available.
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