Tesco limits sales of key items to stop Covid panic-buying

Tesco has reintroduced purchase limits on items including toilet roll, dried pasta and flour, as supermarkets bring back rationing to prevent a repeat of the panic-buying in the early days of the pandemic.

Britain’s largest supermarket chain said on Friday that it was restricting purchases of flour, pasta, baby wipes, antibacterial wipes and toilet paper to three items per customer.

In addition the chain is limiting the online purchase of other items including rice and tinned vegetables.

The retailer said that the limits have been brought in “to ensure that everyone can keep buying what they need”.

The move is a rerun of measures brought in by the UK’s big supermarket chains during the first wave of Covid in March, when consumers anticipating lockdown stockpiled goods including essential hygiene products and dry food.

The government’s warning this week that the country is at a “perilous turning point”, and its announcement of further restrictions for England has led some customers to stock up once again.

WEPA Group, a toilet roll producer and a supplier to several big supermarkets, has reported a 23% increase in sales over the last week.

“We have good availability, with plenty of stock to go round,” said a Tesco spokesperson, “and we would encourage our customers to shop as normal.”

Tesco’s outgoing boss, Dave Lewis, has said stockpiling is unnecessary, adding that there is no disruption to product supply chains.

Tesco’s move follows its rival Morrisons, which became the first big grocer to bring back rationing on Thursday, when it announced that it would set a purchase limit of three on most cleaning products as well as essentials such as toilet paper, hand sanitiser and soap.

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Morrisons is also limiting sales of larger packs of flour, rice and oil, which are sold in its world foods aisle.

The government’s fresh restrictions for England mean that retail and hospitality staff are required to wear masks, as well as their customers.

Tesco said that it will have workers stationed at the entrances of its larger stores “to remind customers about the safety measures we have in place, including the legal requirement to wear a face covering”.

The chain added that it will have face masks for sale at the front of Tesco stores.

In a similar move, Asda said earlier in the week that it would have safety marshals positioned at the entrance to its stores, who would be able to provide shoppers with ready-sanitised baskets and trolleys, while reminding them about government guidelines about wearing face coverings and maintaining social distancing.


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