‘Where is it?’: Supermarket shelves will be empty ‘in weeks’ unless ‘pingdemic’ resolved

Sainsbury’s: Expert discusses food shortage concerns

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More than 600,000 Britons were said to be self-isolating after being “pinged” by the NHS Covid-19 app in a week leading up to customers noticing empty supermarket shelves. Customers at food stores including Morrisons, Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s have started to notice empty shelves.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Broadcasting House Programme, Richard Burnett, chief executive of the Road Haulage Association said: “In the next two to three weeks we are facing a collapse of the supply chain meaning even bigger gaps on supermarket shelves.

“This is a crisis on a scale we have never seen before in this industry and the Government is burying its head in the sand.

“It is not recognising the seriousness.”

Richard Walker, boss of Iceland, has said that more than 1,000 of its workers have been “pinged” by the NHS track and trace app, meaning they have to stay off work.

He told the BBC: “A number of stores have had to close and the concern is as this thing increases exponentially…it could get a lot worse a lot quicker.”

A lack of HGV drivers is also said to be delaying food deliveries to supermarkets.

It comes after customers noticed empty ice cream shelves during the heatwave the UK experienced last week.

One person tweeted: “Nearly all the ice cream is gone in Tesco.”

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Another said: “Can’t find any ice cream or bottled water anywhere, where is it?”

A Tesco spokesperson said: “We have good availability of ice cream across our stores.

“We’ve seen huge customer demand for ice cream and lollies during the recent warm weather, but our colleagues are working hard to make sure our freezers are kept fully stocked.”

Britons have been warned not to stockpile or panic buy food items.

Ministers made exemptions for certain workplaces who could avoid isolating if they get a notification from the app.

This included those working in medicine, emergency services and border control. 

Industry leaders warn that supermarket shelves could be empty “in weeks” unless the crisis is resolved.

Bottled water and salad bags are amongst other food items in short supply.

A spokesperson for Nestlé Waters said the company had “experienced demand for our products increase beyond our expectations at this point in the season” over past months.

They explained: “We believe this is driven by the easing of national lockdown restrictions, and we have also been enjoying a warm British summer.

“This increase in demand has also had a knock-on effect on the haulage industry and we are experiencing shortages in the network servicing our supply, particularly for our international brands such as S. Pellegrino.”

Supermarkets including the Co-op said it was “running low on some products” while Sainsbury’s said it “might not always” have the exact products people want but is working hard to make sure it has good availability. 

Marks and Spencer recently warned customers it might have to run on reduced hours.

Steve Rowe, chief executive of M&S said: “If there’s shortages we’ll have to manage it by changing hours of stores, reducing hours.”

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