UK government helps supermarkets prioritise 'vulnerable shoppers'

A Tesco home Delivery van. (Rui Vieira/PA Wire)

UK supermarkets will prioritise delivery slots for the most vulnerable people during the Covid-19 pandemic, using government data.

The government will provide supermarkets a database of roughly 1.5 million people in Britain who qualify as “vulnerable” and have been ordered to stay home and self-isolate during the coronavirus lockdown.

There is concern these people are still going to the shops to buy groceries due to a lack of delivery slots, with most supermarkets booked up weeks in advance.

Read more: How the coronavirus outbreak is affecting your online food delivery

Waitrose and Sainsbury’s (SBRY.L) said they will begin contacting people in England on the list next week.

Sainsbury’s said it is working on securing information for vulnerable people in Ireland, Scotland and Wales next.

Sainsbury’s is already using information from its Nectar loyalty scheme to prioritise elderly customers, proactively contacting over 270,000 people.

It also has a helpline for vulnerable customers, where they can seek help with deliveries. However, shoppers have complained accessing the helpline is too difficult due to high demand.

Many supermarkets have set aside specific shopping periods, such as the first hour of trading, for the elderly and vulnerable. However, government has advised Brits to book home deliveries when possible, especially if they share a home with someone at high-risk.

“Extremely” vulnerable people, including solid organ transplant recipients, those undergoing chemotherapy, with specific cancers and with severe respiratory conditions have been advised to “shield” for the next 12 weeks — meaning they must stay home at all times and avoid all face-to-face contact.

Read more: Deliveroo to offer M&S deliveries

Some supermarkets are looking into partnering with local taxi companies and takeaway delivery firms to increase delivery capabilities.

Meanwhile, Tesco (TSCO.L) is hiring 8,000 new drivers to help with deliveries. Morrisons (MRW.L) is extending its delivery services via Morrisons.com and Amazon (AMZN) Prime Now, taking on thousands of new staff in upcoming weeks.

The government has teamed up with delivery service Brakes and Bidfood to put together an “emergency food parcel scheme” that will provide essentials to up to 300,000 vulnerable people. It is expected to launch next week.