Coronavirus: Supermarkets start rationing food amid panic buying

Supermarkets across the UK will begin rationing food after panic buying left shelves empty following the coronavirus outbreak.

According to The Telegraph, Tesco will limit the amounts of basic food items customers are able to buy to ensure they don’t run out.

Empty toilet roll shelves in a Sainsbury's store in Basingstoke on Saturday. (PA)

Baked beans, dry pasta and UHT milk are among the foods reportedly included in the embargo. While supplies of antibacterial gels, wipes and sprays will also be limited. 

The supermarket confirmed over the weekend that shoppers would be limited to five items, adding that the new rules would apply to online orders from Sunday onwards.  

A shortage of pasta on the shelves at a Sainsbury's supermarket in Cambridge. (PA)

As of Saturday morning, 206 people in the UK had tested positive for coronavirus – a rise of 42 from the 164 cases which had been confirmed by Friday evening.

On Saturday evening, a further three cases were confirmed in Northern Ireland – bringing the UK total to 209.

Panic over the rapid spread of the disease has led to supermarket shelves being plundered for food and hygeine products.

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Customers have reported shortages of ready meals, toilet roll and paracetamol as pictures showed shelves in major stores lying completely empty.

On Monday, Boris Johnson will chair a meeting of the Government’s emergency committee, Cobra, as officials accelerate work on preparations for the delay phase of the coronavirus plan.

The government is set to announce plans to alert supermarkets before the general public if they are in coronavirus hotspots, to help avoid empty aisles.

Retailers have reassured ministers they have robust plans in place to minimise disruption and are continuing to monitor their supply chains.

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Environment Secretary George Eustice also said he will hold further talks with retailers to discuss support for vulnerable groups who may have to self-isolate.

It follows reports that sales of basics such as pasta and tinned goods have shot up, while shelves of essentials including toilet roll and paracetamol have been cleared in some areas by people panic-buying.