Britain tells shoppers to stop panic-buying

LONDON (AFP) – The British government on Saturday urged people to stop panic-buying during the coronavirus crisis, claiming there was enough food for everyone.

With supermarket shelves still being stripped of essential items, including toilet paper, officials said there was no need for panic.

“There’s no risk of food running out,” Environment Secretary George Eustice told reporters at the government’s daily Downing Street briefing.

“The challenge we have is getting food to the shelves and keeping it there.”

He told shoppers to “be responsible when you shop and think of others,” warning that stockpiling items could leave others without crucial supplies.

When asked if the government would introduce rationing he said it was up to supermarkets to decide whether to limit purchasing of certain items.

Shoppers walk past empty shelves in a supermarket in Rugby, England. PHOTO: AP

The government said it was crucial to ensure there was enough food for medical staff such as doctors and nurses who can only visit shops after long and late shifts.

“It’s incredibly important that they have access to food,” said Stephen Powis, National Medical Director of England’s National Health Service.

He referred to a viral video posted this week by a tearful critical care nurse Dawn Bilbrough issuing a desperate plea for people to stop panic-buying.

“Frankly we should all be ashamed that has had to happen. It’s unacceptable,” he said.

On Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced tougher restrictions to fight the coronavirus outbreak, telling cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants to close.

Asked whether that would exacerbate panic shopping as there are fewer outlets to buy food, Eustice said he did not think it would.