Retailers have been quick to respond to the increased demand, putting in place restrictions on the number of products customers can buy, as well as changing store opening times and online delivery slots to benefit elderly and vulnerable customers, and key workers.
Some stores, including Tesco and Waitrose, have scrapped their buy-one-get-one-free offers.
Supermarkets have been supplied with a list of 1.5 million vulnerable customers who have been told to self-isolate for at least 12 weeks. The list was drawn up by the Government in order to allow supermarkets to target the most needy with online deliveries.
All the latest information on which stores are rationing items, the changes to opening times and what this means for the UK supply chain, can be found below.
Sainsbury's customers are only able to buy a maximum of three of any grocery products and a maximum of two on the most popular items, such as toilet roll, soap and UHT milk.
"As we work to feed the nation, we are also focusing all of our efforts on getting as much food and other essential items from our suppliers, into our warehouses and onto shelves as we possibly can", Mike Coupe, the retailer’s chief executive, said.
"We still have enough food for everyone - if we all just buy what we need for us and our families."
Tesco has introduced restrictions across all their stores only allowing three items per customer on every product line. They have also removed multi-buy promotions.
Asda is restricting all items to a maximum of three per customer across all food items, toiletries and cleaning products.
“We have plenty of products to go around, but we have a responsibility to do the right thing for our communities to help our customers look after their loved ones in a time of need,” the supermarket said in a statement.
Morrisons has restricted all product lines both in store and online to three per customer to ensure everyone has access to everyday essentials. Some high demand items have been restricted to two, including hand sanitiser and toilet roll.
Lidl have announced quantity restrictions across some of their products. They have advised customers to check in store for more details.
Meanwhile, as part of a joint statement released last week with other supermarkets, they have called on customers to be “considerate” in the way they shop.
The statement read: “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.”
Aldi has now lifted some of the temporary restrictions which limited the number of items shoppers could buy.
Customers can now only buy four of the following products:
- Antibacterial wipes
- Hand wash and soap
- Shower gel
- Toilet tissue, kitchen towel, tissues
- Canned tomatoes, canned beans and sausages
- Part baked bread
- Beers, wines and spirits
And two of the following products:
- Antibacterial hand gel
- UHT milk
- Baby formula
John Lewis and Waitrose have become the latest retailers to announce limits on the purchase of some items amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Waitrose, which is part of John Lewis Partnership, has announced a three-item limit on certain products and a limit of two packets of toilet roll.
They said in a statement: “help us help all our customers - particularly those who are sick or vulnerable - by only buying what you need. That way we can ensure there will be enough food and groceries for everyone”.
John Lewis has announced it is closing its stores.
Iceland have placed a "temporary cap" on some items, such as antibacterial wipes and soap. They have also urged people to shop in an “appropriate way for the needs of your family and considering other customers when selecting products in our stores, and we would ask you to be considerate towards our colleagues”.
The Co-op supermarket has become the latest to introduce rationing in its stores, limiting customers to two items of any product, and just one box of eggs.
Measures for elderly and vulnerable customers
Government ministers and retailers have been discussing ways of ensuring that vulnerable people without access to online shopping are not left without food if they have to self-isolate. Retailers have begun implementing measures to protect these customers.
Sainsbury's supermarkets will now open between 8am to 8pm, Monday to Saturday. They have announced NHS and social care workers will be able shop half an hour before stores open each day between 7.30-8.00am, Monday to Saturday.
Additionally, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday 8.00-9.00am will be dedicated to serving elderly and disabled customers, as well as carers.
Mike Coupe, CEO, said in a statement: "I hope that you can respect this decision and will work with us as we try our best to help those that need it most."
Sainsbury's will also be updating their online shopping availability, and from March 23 they will be adding "priority access to online delivery slots" for customers aged over 70, or those who have a disability.
They have also identified vulnerable online shoppers through previously provided information and will be emailing them with information about available delivery slots.
Tesco has announced all their stores, except Express stores, "will be prioritising the elderly and most vulnerable for one hour between 9am and 10am every Monday, Wednesday and Friday". Every Sunday NHS workers who provide a valid ID can shop in Tesco's larger stores an hour before checkouts open.
Asda are offering NHS staff priority access to stores on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8.00-9.00am. While from Friday 20 March from opening time to 9am their superstores will be dedicated to helping vulnerable shoppers.
An NHS hour will be in place in Morrisons stores from 7am to 8am Monday to Saturday.
Meanwhile, the supermarket chain will be recruiting around 2,500 pickers and drivers, as well as 1,000 staff in its distribution centres to expand its online shopping services.
It will make more slots available and also set up a call centre for those without access to online shopping, such as the elderly.
Iceland stores offer exclusive shopping hours for elderly and vulnerable customers, NHS staff and social care workers.
From Monday to Saturday, Iceland's hours are as follows:
- First hour of trading: priority hours for elderly and vulernable people.
- Last hour of trading: NHS staff only with valid ID
From Friday 20 March, the first opening hour in all their stores will be dedicated to elderly and vulnerable shoppers, as well as their carers.
Waitrose has announced they will keep "daily essentials" aside for NHS workers, they will be given "priority treatment" at checkouts and John Lewis Partners are putting together "care packages" to deliver to NHS facilities around the country.
Aldi has not announced any varied opening times for older customers, but they have donated £250,000 to Age UK.
“In these difficult times it’s important for us all to look after the most vulnerable people in our communities,” Aldi said in a statement.
“This donation will help to ensure that Age UK's vital services can stay open during this challenging time, helping to ensure that they can continue to support vulnerable members of the community who may not be able to get out to our stores.”
Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, has said the government is “absolutely confident” in the UK supply chains. “We will get farm to fork food supplies for this country and therefore people should have no reason to stockpile or panic buy,” he said.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has authorised a temporary relaxation, until April 16, of the drivers' hours rules to help deliver goods to stores across the country.
A Department for Transport statement said the relaxation applies only to drivers supplying food and "essential products to supermarkets".
"This includes the movement of such goods from importers, manufactures and suppliers to distribution centres. It does not apply to drivers undertaking deliveries directly to consumers," the statement added.
Stores have also reassured customers they are doing all they can to ensure their shelves remain full and their supply chains running smoothly.
Waitrose have said: “We would like to reassure you that we are currently working as hard as possible to keep a good range of everyday products available, and are working closely with our suppliers to help meet continuing demand.”
Tesco has also reduced the hours of all its stores, with all stores closing at 10pm. Last week, it was forced to take its mobile app offline temporarily due to high demand.
A spokeswoman said the reduced hours: "gives our colleagues the time overnight to restock the store, replenish the shelves and support our online grocery service at a time when demand is high."
They will also be closing all meat, fish, deli counters and salad bars, to allow staff to focus on restocking shelves and providing essentials.
Waitrose cafes and rotisseries will be temporarily shut to help stores cope with increased demand in other areas. Due to the high demand of their online shopping service the cut off time to make changes to orders is now 12 noon.
Asda will also be closing its 24 hour stores between 12am and 6am temporarily. The company said in a statement the move was to “ensure (staff) have the time to re-stock and thoroughly clean the store so it is ready for customers”.
In a bid to prioritise essential items, free up warehouse space and employees, Asda will also be temporarily closing services such as cafes and pizza counters.
Aldi has changed their closing times so all stores will now close at 8pm. Lidl has announced some store opening times have changed, and are encouraging customers to check their local store for details.
Iceland's opening hours from Monday through Saturday are now 9am to 5pm. Sunday trading hours remain unchanged.