Supermarkets place buying limits on items and introduce extra hours for elderly and vulnerable amid virus stockpiling

  • Video report by ITV News Consumer Editor Chris Choi.

As the UK government announces more stringent measures to combat the spread of coronavirus, shoppers have begun stockpiling goods and leaving shelves empty in shops across the country.

Supermarket chains have begun introducing measures to help ease the strain on supplies, workers, and the people most at risk of coronavirus - those over 70, people with disabilities and people with a pre-existing medical condition.

They have insisted their stocks are stable, and last week issued a joint statement asking shoppers to shop "responsibly" and to stop panic-buying goods.

Here's a list of some of measures the major UK supermarket chains are taking.

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know


  • The UK's largest supermarket chain will close its 24-hour stores between 10pm and 6am to ensure shelves are fully stocked.

  • Introducing a three-item limit per each item, store-wide.

  • Special restrictions on toilet paper, anti-bacterial wipes, and paracetamol.

  • Mobile app was taken offline after high demand on Tuesday.


  • Customers can only buy a maximum of three of any one grocery product and a maximum of two of the most popular items, such as toilet roll, soap and long life milk.

  • Will limit first hour of trading to the over-70s and vulnerable shoppers only.

  • Those over 70 and people with a disability will be given priority access to online delivery slots.

  • Closing cafes and its meat, fish and pizza counters to free up freight capacity for more essential products.

Many supermarkets have imposed limits on essential items. Credit: PA


  • Three-item limit per individual product across food, toiletries and cleaning products.

  • Closing non-essential services such as cafes and pizza counters to free up capacity.

  • Closing 24-hour stores between midnight and 6am to allow time to replenish stocks.

  • Offering non-contact delivery to customers who are self-isolating, for example leaving the goods on the doorstep.


  • A limit of four items per product per visit.

  • Donating £250,000 to Age UK to support those "who may not be able to get to our stores".


  • Four items per customer for certain products, including household essentials, cleaning products, pasta, rice and tinned goods.

Marks and Spencer

  • Have promised more stringent cleaning measures in store.

  • Moving workers from M&S Clothing and Home teams to their food stores to improve service.

  • Introducing a contact-free home delivery service.


  • Waitrose are introducing a cap on antibacterial soaps and wipes, pasta and some canned goods.

  • The supermarket will introduce more cleaning on high-contact points such as self-serve checkouts and key pads.


  • The Co-Op is putting a two-item cap on certain products, with a spokesperson saying demand for "hand sanitiser, anti-bacterial soap and toilet roll" has risen.

  • The Co-op's CEO, Steve Murrells, has asked shoppers to "please shop normally".

  • "We’re also going to do everything we can to make sure our most vulnerable customers get the food they need and we’re looking at a few different options to make this happen," he said on Wednesday.

  • For every week of unplanned closure of schools, Co-Op is giving 6,500 students who would otherwise have free meals at the Co-Op's 25 Academy schools a £20 voucher to use at any Co-Op food store.


  • Allocating two hours on Wednesday morning exclusively for elderly people and other vulnerable groups to shop.


  • The online supermarket has shut its website until Saturday, March 21, due to "staggering" demand, and will not accept any edits to orders for the next few days.

  • When it reopens its website, Ocado will enforce temporary limits across some in-demand items.

  • Not accepting any new customers, only accepting orders from existing customers.


  • Hiring 3,500 more staff to help with home delivery service

  • Launching a new range of simple-to-order food parcels, including options for vegetarians, from March 23.

  • Launching a customer call centre for orders to be taken over the phone for people who do not use online shopping.