Coronavirus: Supermarkets 'want police support in event of a London lockdown'

·2-min read

Supermarkets are expecting to get police support to deter unruly behaviour if London goes into lockdown because of the coronavirus.

Source within the industry say they are concerned that panic buying could spike if further restrictions are imposed.

On Thursday, there were frenzied scenes in some stores as shoppers sought to buy bottled water, tinned goods and toilet roll.

Andrew Opie, from the British Retail Consortium, the industry body representing supermarkets, said retailers were well-versed in providing effective security measures.

He said: "Retailers across the country are working closely with police and other partners to keep retail sites running as smoothly as possible.

"Any forms of abusive or violent behaviour will not be tolerated and retailers will continue to work with the police to protect their staff and customers."

"It is vital that police forces prioritise the safety of those who are working to meet the needs of an entire country. Anyone found to be abusing staff or customers should be met with the full force of the law."

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Environment Secretary George Eustace had told the Commons there was "significant resilience in our food supply chain" and no shortage of food.

"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."

But despite government assurances, photos on social media showed long queues and empty shelves across the country.

One supermarket in Guildford, Surrey, had to open early on Thursday because of huge queues of shoppers, with one man banging his trolley against the door.

Designated shopping times designed to give elderly and vulnerable people a chance were ignored in some places.

In some places supermarket workers have been intimidated or abused, prompting union USDAW to appeal for shoppers to stay calm.

It came after news from The Grocer, which quoted data from Nielsen Scantrack as showing shoppers spent an extra £57.3m on stockpiling medicines, handwash and canned food in the first week of March compared with the week before.

Government measures include new delivery curfews so that lorries can run around the clock, relaxing regulations on delivery hours.

The rush to the supermarkets in London came after speculation that the city could be placed on lockdown in order to combat COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

But the government moved to de-bunk the rumours, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson's official spokesman saying: "There are no plans to close down the transport network in London and there is zero prospect of any restrictions being placed on travelling in and out of London."