Supermarket insiders have warned that they may not be able to deliver food to all the people in self-isolation if the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread.
Despite Health Secretary Matt Hancock insisting the Government is working with the big chains to ensure the nation will continue to get what “food and supplies they need”, newspaper sources have claimed that is not the case.
Shelves of toilet rolls and pasta are reported to have been stripped bare by panicked customers around the UK in the past few days, leaving bosses of the main supermarkets worrying about what may happen if things get worse.
An unnamed supermarket executive is reported to have told the BBC: “Matt Hancock has totally made up what he said about working with supermarkets. We haven’t heard anything from Government directly.”
He added: “While I think people don’t need to panic buy and should just shop normally, I’m not sure the Government can guarantee all food supply in all instances.”
A source at a rival supermarket echoed the executive’s comments, adding that they were unsure how – if one in five people end up off work sick with coronavirus – they would get all the home deliveries ordered out on the road and onto doorsteps.
The source said: “We can’t switch a whole load of new vans on overnight.”
Coronavirus is now spreading around the UK, with the illness being passed among people in the community.
We can’t switch a whole load of new vans on overnight.
Two people in the UK have already died as a result of the bug in the UK, which originated in Wuhan, China.
Experts are now predicting the peak of the outbreak will hit around Easter time, with thousands potentially being struck down with coronavirus.
Microbiologist Peter Piot told The Times: “I’m often asked whether the threat is being overhyped. The answer, to me, is no. This is the real thing.
“I think we will go to the peak of the epidemic somewhere around Easter.”
Mr Piot warned that even if the illness seems to disappear throughout the summer, it could make a return in November.
No 10 Downing Street said the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) had regular meetings with the food industry to discuss risks to the supply chain, with a working group due to meet yesterday.
A No 10 spokesman told the BBC: “Defra will continue to work on this issue. We have resilient supply chains.”
Meanwhile, yesterday we told how the powers that be at ITV have begun planning a strategy to ensure that filming for both Coronation Street and Emmerdale can continue if the outbreak worsens.
Representatives of both ITV soaps told RadioTimes.com: “We’ve looked at our procedures and our established contingency plans and we’re confident that we’re able to continue with our filming schedule.
“In terms of our colleagues, our aim is to do everything we can to support anyone affected. We’re keeping a close eye on the situation and putting our people first.”
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