Shoppers urged not to hoard as Boris Johnson sees ‘gradual unwrapping’ of lockdown

Asda assures customers that its stores will remain fully stocked

FILE PHOTO: Shoppers walk past the UK supermarket Asda, in Leeds, Britain, October 19, 2020. REUTERS/Molly Darlington/File Photo
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Asda has asked customers to avoid stockpiling food and to shop responsibly during the UK’s latest coronavirus lockdown.

The supermarket chain assured shoppers that supply chains were robust and said staff were working around the clock to keep shelves fully stocked.

“Asda is also asking customers to play their part by continuing to shop considerately and not buy more than they normally would,” the retailer told its customers.

Britain was hit by instances of panic buying when the pandemic hit in March with pictures of empty supermarket aisles being posted across social media.

Asda chief executive Roger Burnley said: "As Covid restrictions are tightened across the UK to protect our health, we will continue to do all we can to keep colleagues and customers safe in store as we have since the start of the pandemic.

"Our stores and distribution centres have proved to be highly resilient to the challenges of a national lockdown and we are confident that we can continue to deliver choice and value for customers in the weeks ahead.

"We are asking customers can play their part too by continuing to shop considerately and respecting social distancing when they visit our stores."
Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined new restrictions on Monday in a bid to stem a sustained rise in coronavirus cases.
On Tuesday, health authorities reported more than 60,000 infections, a new daily record.

Under the new rules in England, schools are closed to most pupils, people should work from home if possible, and all hospitality and non-essential shops are closed.

Mr Johnson said the relaxation of lockdown measures will be a "gradual unwrapping" rather than a "big bang".

Addressing parliament before legislators are due to vote on the lockdown, Mr Johnson urged caution over any timetable for the re-opening of the country.
"And as was the case last spring, our emergence from the lockdown cocoon will not be a big bang but a gradual unwrapping."

Mr Johnson also said he had resisted shutting schools until the last moment, but was forced to do so.

Schools, he said, would be the very first to open when the lockdown ends.

"Many people will ask if the decision on schools could have been reached sooner, and we have been doing everything in our power to keep them open until every other option has been exhausted," he said.

"That's why schools were the very last thing to close as I promised they would be. And when we begin to move out of lockdown, I promise they will be the very first thing to reopen."

Health secretary Matt Hancock also urged legislators to back the new measures as he revealed 30,400 patients were now being treated in hospital for coronavirus.

"If we don't act now, the NHS won't be able to cope. Winter will be difficult but we now know what a way out looks like", he said.

He also revealed that 1.3 million people have been vaccinated and said the most at-risk groups, including those over 80 and in care homes, should be inoculated by mid-February.

However, he stressed that Covid restrictions would be relaxed slowly and implied that the current measures could last until March.

It comes as Britain's minister for vaccinations on Wednesday promised the drive would speed up dramatically to inoculate nearly 14 million people in the coming weeks.

"My absolute focus is to get to 13.9 million," vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi told BBC radio.

"I'm confident the NHS (National Health Service) has a plan and we will meet that target," he said.

"You will see a massive increase in the numbers," he said.

The public will be able to get shots at national vaccination centres opening soon, as well as in hospitals, doctors' surgeries and community pharmacies.

The House of Commons has been recalled and will vote retroactively on the latest restrictions, which took legal effect overnight and could remain in force until March 31.

However, the government plans to review the lockdown, including the closure of schools and non-essential shops, in mid-February.