Coronavirus: Tesco starts rationing key items to prevent repeat of shortages

25 September 2020, 10:13 | Updated: 25 September 2020, 11:42

Tesco has said it is introducing limits on some key household essentials, just days after its chief executive appealed for no "unnecessary" panic buying as coronavirus restrictions are tightened.

The UK's largest supermarket chain revealed a three items per customer limit on flour, dried pasta, toilet roll, baby wipes and antibacterial wipes a day after 'big four' rival Morrisons introduced similar measures blaming evidence of stockpiling.

All the major supermarkets introduced temporary rationing in March after shelves were stripped bare of essentials in the weeks leading up to the COVID-19 lockdown.

They were slowly lifted as stocks recovered and stores are anxious to avert a repeat.

Tesco said its restrictions applied to all store and online sales though digital orders would also see limits on a number of additional items such as rice and canned vegetables.

"We have good availability, with plenty of stock to go round, and we would encourage our customers to shop as normal,"
a Tesco spokeswoman said on Friday.

"To ensure that everyone can keep buying what they need, we have introduced bulk-buy limits on a small number of products."

It is understood the decision was a reaction to evidence of a small uplift in demand for the goods.

Morrisons brought back limits on products such as toilet roll, disinfectants and bleach to a maximum of three.

The other members of the big four chains, Sainsbury's and Asda, are yet to impose any restrictions.

Dave Lewis, the chief executive of Tesco, sought to reassure customers on Wednesday after the prime minister told people to work from home where possible and ordered restaurants and bars to close early to tackle a spike in the pandemic.

Mr Lewis told Ian King Live: "I think the UK saw how well the food industry managed last time, so there's very good supplies of food.

"We just don't want to see a return to unnecessary panic buying because that creates a tension in the supply chain that's not necessary.

"And therefore we would just encourage customers to continue to buy as normal."