The UK government is relaxing restrictions on delivery hours for shops to make sure supermarkets can keep stocked with basic items in an effort to deal with the fallout of the coronavirus.
Night-time deliveries in built up areas are to be allowed and the frequency of deliveries will be increased to counter supply chain disruption amid stockpiling concerns.
Delivery lorries cannot currently operate in built-up areas overnight to avoid disturbing local residents.
The temporary changes have been brought in after discussions between supermarket executives and George Eustice, the secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, on Monday afternoon.
Supermarkets asked for help to meet increased demand amid the coronavirus outbreak that saw consumers panic buying essential items such as toilet roll, dried pasta and tinned tomatoes.
Eustice said: “We have listened to our leading supermarkets and representatives from across the industry, and we are taking action to support their preparations.
“By allowing night-time deliveries to our supermarkets and food retailers, we can free them up to move their stocks more quickly from their warehouses to their shelves.”
“Our retailers have well-established contingency plans in place and are taking all the necessary steps to ensure consumers have the food and supplies they need. I will continue to work closely with them over the coming days and weeks on this.”
Solutions for the problem of how infected shoppers could collect goods ordered online from stores without interacting with staff and the possible relaxation of other regulations, such as limits on drivers’ working hours, in order to support those in self-isolation, were also discussed.
Some supermarkets began to ration in-demand products over the weekend. Britain’s biggest supermarket Tesco (TSCO.L) placed a five-item cap on products including antibacterial wipes, hand gels and long-life milk.
Waitrose has placed temporary restrictions on some items, including anti-bacterial soaps and wipes and Asda and several pharmacy chains have restricted some types of hand sanitiser to two bottles per person.