Coronavirus: Competition laws relaxed to help supermarkets ‘feed the nation’

Supermarkets will be allowed to work together to keep shelves stocked, shops open and delivery vans running as the UK battles coronavirus.

The government will relax competition laws next week to allow stores to cooperate to keep Britons fed as they are being asked to isolate from each other.

In a meeting with supermarket bosses and food industry chiefs on Thursday, Environment Secretary George Eustice confirmed some elements of legislation would be temporarily waived.

The government said the action would allow retailers to share data with each other on stock levels, cooperate to keep shops open, or share distribution depots and delivery vans.

Ministers have also relaxed rules around drivers’ hours, so retailers can deliver more food to stores, and will suspend the 5p plastic bag charge for online purchases to speed up deliveries.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson used a Downing Street news conference to urge Britons to be “reasonable” in their grocery shopping.

He intervened after massively increased demand, amid stockpiling by some, left supermarket aisles empty.

“As I said before, we’ve got good supply chains farm to fork – there’s no reason for the shops really to be empty,” Mr Johnson said.

“Please be reasonable, please be reasonable in your shopping, be considerate and thoughtful for others as you do it”.

Many supermarkets have already reacted to the huge demand caused by the coronavirus crisis to introduce limits on the purchase of some goods, as well as preserving certain store opening times for elderly and vulnerable customers.

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