Two of the UK’s biggest supermarket chains have announced that they will be setting aside time for NHS workers to shop during the coronavirus outbreak.
The measures are designed to help ensure that NHS workers, who continue to expose themselves to the virus to provide healthcare for others, are able to buy the essentials as panic-buying sweeps the country.
Here’s everything you need to know about the special shopping hours.
Which supermarkets are taking part?
So far, Tesco and Marks and Spencer have arranged to set aside time in their stores for NHS workers to shop.
The UK’s other supermarket chains have been urged to join in, as panic-buying continues to leave many key workers and vulnerable people struggling to obtain basic supplies.
A statement from Tesco said, “Reacting to the latest government announcement, we have to plan on this being the new normal and will do all that we can to make the food you want available but we need your help.”
They have also introduced customer limits on certain items, reduced the trading hours of some of their stores and asked customers to pay by card where possible to further reduce the risk of transmission.
Marks and Spencer have introduced similar measures in their own stores and have also said that, due to the impact the coronavirus has had on their profits, “We are preparing for the contingency that some stores may have to close temporarily.”
Unlike other supermarkets, M&S have not seen the surge in custom resulting from panic-buying, “We have benefited on a small scale as customers stock up but our heavy bias to chilled and fresh [food] means we are not seeing the forward-buying uplift experienced by the major grocers.”
When are the reserved hours for NHS workers?
Tesco have announced that on Sunday 22 March, NHS workers will be given an hour to do their shopping before the store opens to the public.
This hour will also be made available to Tesco’s own workers, who have similarly had to risk their own health by continuing to work in crowded public spaces to ensure basic services can still be provided amidst the coronavirus outbreak.
At Marks and Spencer, the store will be reserved for NHS and emergency service workers during the first hour of trading on every Tuesday and Friday morning.
What other reserved hours are there?
Tesco and Marks and Spencer have also both set aside time for shoppers who are more vulnerable to the coronavirus, allowing them to do their shopping in a less crowded store in an effort to lower their risk of catching it.
The first hour of trading each day has been reserved for this group, which includes the elderly and those with compromised immune systems and pre-existing conditions.
Morrisons have also reserved the hour between 9am and 10am from Monday to Saturday for vulnerable customers.
Sainsbury’s stores were also open only to customers over 70 and to those with a disability for the first hour of trading business on Thursday 19 March. Those customers will also be given priority for home delivery orders from Monday 23 March.
However, Sainsbury’s has not yet announced whether this reserved hour will be a recurring event.
While Asda has yet to implement a company-wide policy, it did ask that non-vulnerable customers refrain from shopping before 9am on Friday 20 March.
Beginning on Friday 20 March, Waitrose have also announced that they will be focusing on vulnerable shoppers during the first hour of trading.
This article originally appeared on our sister site, The i.