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Coronavirus: This is when NHS staff and the elderly can go to the supermarket and what food restrictions are in place

Despite shoppers being urged to refrain from panic-buying, thousands of consumers have continued to stock up their supplies and leave shelves barren.

It has resulted in supermarket chains introducing dedicated shopping hours for specific groups, and enforcing restrictions on the number of products that each person can buy.

Scroll down for a graphic comparing each supermarket

Going food shopping is not as it used to be (32297996)
Going food shopping is not as it used to be (32297996)

We have compiled details on how Sainsbury's, Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Lidl, Aldi, Waitrose, Iceland, Co-op and M&S are responding to the pressures of coronavirus.


NHS and social care staff have been designated a half-hour slot for six days of the week. Doors are open from 7.30am until 8am, Monday to Saturday.

Elderly and vulnerable people are allocated a 'golden hour' between 8am and 9am on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Sainsbury's is allowing the elderly to shop early (32298079)
Sainsbury's is allowing the elderly to shop early (32298079)

The stores will then open up for all others after 9am, with customers advised to stand at least a metre from staff. Each supermarket will be open until 8pm.

Customers are only allowed to buy two of particular items, such as milk, toilet paper and soap. In-store meat, fish, and pizza counters are closed.

Groceries are also being rationed, with customers only allowed to buy three of each item.


NHS workers are allowed to enter stores one hour before the checkouts open. This is limited to just Sundays.

NHS staff can browse Tesco stores before the checkouts are opened (32298173)
NHS staff can browse Tesco stores before the checkouts are opened (32298173)

They can browse aisles and select items but cannot pay until the tills open as usual.

The elderly and vulnerable have a designated hour from 9am until 10am every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

The bigger 24-hour Tesco branches have reduced opening times from 6am until 10pm to allow for stock to be replenished each day.

Shoppers are limited to buying three of each item across all food and household products.

There's a tighter two-item limit imposed on toilet roll and paracetamol.

Asda (32298380)
Asda (32298380)


NHS workers are able to shop Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8am until 9am.

Last Friday, Asda did have an early opening for "the most vulnerable and those who support them", however, no further measures for the elderly have since been announced.

All customers are being urged to pay via contactless card payments. Asda's 24-hour stores are closed during the night from 12am until 6am. The firm is planning to recruit 5,000 extra people and has asked its employees to encourage friends and family without a job to apply.

Shoppers can buy up to three items on all food, toiletries and cleaning products.

Morrisons (32298476)
Morrisons (32298476)


NHS employees can do their shopping Monday to Saturday from 7am until 8am.

All stores countywide are open from 8am until 8pm for every other customer.

There is a maximum order number on a 1,250 of its products.

Morrisons is installing perspex screens to block the spread of germs at checkouts.

There aren't designated hours at either Lidl or Aldi as of yet (32298569)
There aren't designated hours at either Lidl or Aldi as of yet (32298569)


As it stands, there are no special hours introduced.

The firm is hiring 2,500 new temporary workers to help cater for the increased demand during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Like elsewhere, there are purchasing restrictions on a number of products.


Like its German counterpart, Aldi is not currently offering designated shopping hours for specific people.

All of its stores close at 8pm. Clear protective screens are being installed at checkouts to protect both customers and workers.

There is a four-item restriction on almost all products.

Nappies toilet paper and kitchen roll are restricted to two items per customer.

Waitrose (32298648)
Waitrose (32298648)


The high-end supermarket is only allowing the customers that are elderly and vulnerable to shop during the first hour of opening.

Bosses warn that some stores will close earlier than usual in order to keep stocking up.

A range of products are limited to three purchases at a time, while only two toilet paper items can be bought with each visit.

Regarding NHS workers, it said: "We recognise the tireless work of NHS staff, supporting us all through these unprecedented circumstances.

"Our Waitrose shops are setting aside a proportion of hard-to-find and essential products exclusively for NHS staff, on production of an NHS card.

"We’re also giving NHS staff priority checkout service to ensure they are able to get through as quickly and easily as possible.

"While we can’t guarantee specific items we are getting regular deliveries, our branch managers and partners will set aside a proportion of hard-to-find and essential products from every delivery that arrives into their branch."

And regarding, other emergency services or other key workers, it said: "Our shops are using their discretion at the moment when assessing customer needs. But these steps are largely to support NHS workers who are really at the forefront of responding to these unprecedented challenges."

Iceland (32298872)
Iceland (32298872)


Opening hours for NHS workers and the elderly have been left at the discretion of individual store managers.

Iceland bosses are encouraging their stores to offer a 'priority hour' but are not enforcing a blanket order. Instead, they say individual shop managers understand their community better and will know what is best to do.

The stores which are running a special hour are doing so from 8am until 9am.

Bosses say they are reviewing what more could be done to help vulnerable and healthcare workers.

The Co-op invites the elderly to come in early (32298943)
The Co-op invites the elderly to come in early (32298943)


There is a special shopping hour every day of the week for NHS staff.

Co-op stores are not closed to other customers at that time, but bosses are asking for people to give priority to healthcare workers.

NHS staff can shop from 8am until 9am, Monday to Saturday. On Sundays, the special hour runs from 10am until 11am.

The Co-op has announced it will create 5,000 jobs to provide temporary employment for hospitality workers who have lost their jobs because of the coronavirus crisis.

Lincolnshire Co-op stores don't have dedicated hours of shopping, but that's because they receive deliveries throughout the day and were concerned should they dedicate hours that the supplies required might not be in stock.

Lincolnshire Co-op has been working with the Lincolnshire Resilience Forum to identify groups that can support the community in response to coronavirus.

With the forum’s help, the society has mapped out each of its food stores and pharmacies to a community group, which can pick up essential groceries or prescriptions and take them to isolated people in the area.

A list has been created with the groups identified, which can be added to. Call 01522 544632 or email community@lincolnshire.coop or the Lincolnshire Resilience Forum Communities and Volunteer Co-ordination Cell on (01522) 787034 or email CEC_CVC@lincoln.fire-uk.org

Members of the group will be given a pass to enable them to pick up essential groceries like milk, bread, butter, pasta, toilet roll and paracetamol from food stores (subject to availability) and prescriptions and medical supplies from pharmacies.

The Co-op invites the elderly to come in early (32299057)
The Co-op invites the elderly to come in early (32299057)


The elderly and vulnerable are allocated the first hour opening on Mondays and Thursdays, while healthcare workers have Tuesday and Friday.

Across all grocery products, there is a two-item limit per person.

Supermarket opening hours (32299140)
Supermarket opening hours (32299140)

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