Supermarkets making plans to ‘cut services to stay open’

Cafés, counters and other services could be closed if supermarkets are hit by staff shortages as a result of coronavirus.

This week has seen the nation's grocers pushed to the limit – with many rationing how much shoppers can buy and delivery slots filling up weeks in advance – as Britons panic-buy everything from toilet roll to pasta sauce.

But insiders have told Reuters bosses are now working on plans to keep the nation fed in the case their own staff start to succumb to the global pandemic, or schools are closed forcing parents home to look after their children.

"What (products) we can and can't get is the least of current challenges," one UK supermarket executive told Reuters.

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The person said far more pressing problems were how the business staffs its stores and how it practically helps the elderly and vulnerable when the virus takes hold of the UK population.

The Government announcing the closure of all schools would be "a binary moment", the person added.

Another source at a UK supermarket group said planning was focused on "What would it take to keep the store running?"

Already we have seen plans enacted by major supermarkets – including Aldi, Asda and Sainsbury's limiting purchases, while online delivery services have crashed as demand spikes.

However, despite the empty shelves, supermarket after supermarket has insisted there is no problem with supplies – simply that people are over-buying.

"Representatives of our leading supermarkets have been clear that people should shop as they normally do and have asked everyone to be considerate in the way they shop," the Prime Minister's official spokesman said.

"Retailers are taking all the necessary steps to ensure that consumers have the food and supplies they need and we are working closely with the food industry to ensure that there is resilience of the supply network."

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