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Tesco tightens purchasing restrictions as panic buyers clear shelves

Demand for groceries also surged online, with Ocado placing customers in hour-long queues to access its website.


Empty shelves in a Tesco Extra in Worthing, West Sussex (Michael Drummond/PA)

Empty shelves in a Tesco Extra in Worthing, West Sussex (Michael Drummond/PA)

Empty shelves in a Tesco Extra in Worthing, West Sussex (Michael Drummond/PA)

Tesco has introduced tighter purchasing restrictions as panic buyers continue to strip supermarket shelves amid coronavirus fears.

Items including anti-bacterial wipes, dried pasta and toilet roll will be limited to two per customer under the changes, it is understood.

The company also had to remove a food bank trolley from its Hove superstore after a customer reported it had been raided.

A number of stores are now operating at reduced hours due to “operational reasons”, Tesco said on Twitter.

It comes as photographs showed supermarket shelves across the UK cleared of food and other essential goods such as toilet roll.

The demand for groceries has also moved online, with customers placed in hour-long queues on Tuesday just to access online supermarket Ocado’s website.

The company said it was experiencing an “unusual” and “very high” demand for its services, resulting in it having to take its mobile app offline temporarily.

Waitrose’s website was also temporarily down on Tuesday afternoon due to a “high volume of visitors”.

Empty shelves where toilet rolls are usually stocked in a Waitrose in Southsea, Hampshire (Ben Birchall/PA)

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) said its members, which include independent corner shops, Spar and Co-op, were managing to keep up with demand.

ACS’s head of communications Chris Noice said: “People are now realising that the place where there is still stock is their local shop.

“But with more people looking to self-isolate, and supermarkets reaching capacity online, I expect more convenience stores to offer home delivery services.”

He said while some stores already use delivery services such as Deliveroo, “more and more” are now considering using their own vehicles to supply customers.

Despite Tesco tightening its restrictions from five items to two on certain products, the company insisted that stock levels remained “good”.

Responding to a customer on Twitter who asked why one of its 24-hour stores was closing at 10pm, the company said a “few” of its supermarkets would be temporarily operating on reduced hours.

Following reports that items were stolen from its Hove store food bank trolley, the company asked customers to provide any further donations to checkout staff.

Supermarket giant Morrisons said it would be creating 3,500 new jobs as it expands its home delivery service to cope with soaring demand.

The chain said it would be recruiting around 2,500 pickers and drivers and about 1,000 people to work in distribution centres.

The move to boost home delivery will see the retailer make more slots available to customers, use another 100 stores for shop picking, set up a call centre for those without access to online shopping and launch a new range of simple-to-order food parcels from March 23.