Elderly and vulnerable customers who visited Sainsbury’s stores for a dedicated shopping hour have said they were met with huge crowds and empty shelves on Thursday morning.

The first hour of trading at the supermarket’s 2,300 UK stores had been set aside for the exclusive use of those whose health is most at risk from the disease. Many people have taken to social media to complain about the chaos.

Teresa Marsh, 63, who visited Sainsbury’s Balham superstore, in south-west London, with her 71-year-old husband, described the dedicated hour as “a waste of time”.

“It was very, very busy. There were vulnerable people up close and personal in that scrum when I thought it would be a sedate shopping experience,” she said. “There was very little tinned fish, no toilet rolls, no kitchen rolls, no tinned tomatoes. I didn’t feel there was any advantage.”

Marsh added that she felt Sainsbury’s should have provided signage outlining the dedicated hour to both security guards and customers. “As I left about half seven, there were security on the door just letting people in – it didn’t matter what age they were, they were just saying in you go. It was just getting busier,” she said.

Daniella Brice, 37, from Lingfield, in Surrey, who has asthma and diabetes and is seven months pregnant, said her 73-year-old mother went to the Sainsbury’s store in East Grinstead, Sussex, at 6.50am to pick up some essentials for her.

Although “she was looking forward to it as has found the shops so stressful”, she had to queue to get in the store, to find the shelves empty of bread, milk, loo roll, tins, meat and spices.

READ  Man's 'experiments' with explosives were lawful, court rules

Symptoms are defined as either:

  • a high temperature – you feel hot to touch on your chest or back
  • a new continuous cough – this means you’ve started coughing repeatedly

NHS advice is that anyone with symptoms should stay at home for at least 7 days.

If you live with other people, they should stay at home for at least 14 days, to avoid spreading the infection outside the home.

After 14 days, anyone you live with who does not have symptoms can return to their normal routine. But, if anyone in your home gets symptoms, they should stay at home for 7 days from the day their symptoms start. Even if it means they’re at home for longer than 14 days.

Information: If you live with someone who is 70 or over, has a long-term condition, is pregnant or has a weakened immune system, try to find somewhere else for them to stay for 14 days.

If you have to stay at home together, try to keep away from each other as much as possible.

After 7 days, if you no longer have a high temperature you can return to your normal routine.

If you still have a high temperature, stay at home until your temperature returns to normal.

If you still have a cough after 7 days, but your temperature is normal, you do not need to continue staying at home. A cough can last for several weeks after the infection has gone.

Source: NHS England on 18 March 2020

“She then endured huge queues at checkout as they hadn’t opened most checkouts – putting her close to other shoppers for a prolonged time,” said Brice. “All it has done it lower my mum’s moral and confidence even more.”

READ  Tech Tuesday: Prolonging battery life - WMTV

Leighton Snowdon, 21, from Newcastle, pointed out that some customers whose disabilities were not visible had been subject to misguided scrutiny. Snowdon, who has autism, said he presented his disabled person’s bus pass to a staff member at the Heaton superstore but received “lots of comments from people saying there isn’t anything wrong with him”.

He also said that despite arriving at 6.30am – half an hour before the shop opened – it was impossible to avoid large crowds. “[By] around 6:50am around 300 people queuing up and before the store opened the car park was almost full and people we’re running for the toilet rolls,” said Snowdon.

Another Twitter user, who did not want to be named, said he had picked up his 74-year-old mother, who lives at home with his elderly and disabled father to take her to the Surbiton superstore in south-west London. When they arrived there was a “very long queue” outside, while a shop assistant had said it was “rammed inside”.

Meanwhile, Gaynor Young, 40, said her 75-year-old father, Richard, had queued for a ticket to get into the store for 20 minutes at the Brentwood superstore in Essex.

Across the country, an influx of general customers saw queues and shelves emptied at supermarkets on Thursday morning, with videos on social media showing crowds pushing trolleys against shop doors as they waited for them to open.

Amid the scramble to stockpile essentials, the environment secretary, George Eustace, told the Commons there was a “significant resilience in our food supply chain”. He added: “There isn’t a shortage of food, the challenge that we’ve had is getting food to shelves in time when people have been purchasing more.”

READ  QuintessenceLabs secures investment and expands quantum-safe portfolio - Help Net Security

In a statement, Sainsbury’s said that customers over 70 or who have a disability would be given priority access to its online delivery slots from Monday 23 March. It added that it would be expanding its “click and collect” services for all customers.

A Sainsbury’s spokesperson said, “We would like to thank our customers who supported the decision to dedicate an hour in our supermarkets this morning to the elderly and vulnerable. We know that they appreciated the early access and we will listen to feedback from our customers and colleagues.”

UK supermarkets including Sainsbury’s, Asda, Tesco and Aldi have announced tight new restrictions on purchases in recent days amid a battle to keep food on the shelves as panicked shoppers continue to stockpile.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here