Daily update on the coronavirus response - 4 April 2020

Image of supermarket aisle with full shelves

The government continues to work closely with the food industry to ensure people across the UK have the food and groceries they need.

We have given supermarkets the information they need – in addition to their own data – to help ensure essential items are delivered as soon as possible to the people with medical conditions that make them most vulnerable. We are also looking at ways to prioritise those who are at increased risk, but are not on the clinically vulnerable list and have introduced a range of measures to keep food supply flowing and support home deliveries.

Yesterday the government also announced a £3.25 million fund to help food redistribution organisations redistribute up to 14,000 tonnes of surplus stock during the coronavirus outbreak and reduce food waste.

The grants will be available to redistributors working hard to ensure valuable food does not go to waste – from overcoming operational barriers in obtaining, storing and transporting food safely from restaurants as they close in response to coronavirus, to supporting drops in volunteer numbers.

Announcing the food waste redistribution funding, Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said:

I am proud of the many organisations across the UK working to ensure food and supplies are provided to those who need it most need during this challenging time.

This funding will support people in need while ensuring that we minimise the amount of food which goes to waste – benefiting both society and the environment.

Many supermarkets are beginning to relax some of their purchasing restrictions for consumers. Sainsbury’s Chief Executive Mike Coupe has announced that the store will loosen purchasing restrictions on most items from Sunday 5 April, excluding some high-demand essentials.

The government continues to advise those who do need to go out to the shops for essential supplies to follow advice in stores, stay at least two metres away from other people, and shop considerately.

Actions the retail industry is taking:

  • Sainsbury’s is relaxing purchasing restrictions from Sunday 5 April, but restricting entry to stores to one adult from each household at a time.
  • Aldi, ASDA, Morrisons, Waitrose, and Lidl are easing limits on some goods in store, but customers are still encouraged to only buy what they need to ensure all customers continue to have access to all the products they need.
  • Contactless card payment spending limit has increased from £30 to £45 to help minimise contact between staff and customers.
  • Marks & Spencer has launched new online Food Boxes to help customers get products they need and support those who aren’t able to easily visit stores.
  • Morrisons have made a letter available on their internal website for their employees which clarify their key worker status in case of interaction with authorities.
  • Asda will provide full pay to colleagues who have been identified by government as needing to self-isolate for 12 weeks and will offer fully paid leave to colleagues who are vulnerable or are the carers of extremely vulnerable people.
  • Waitrose, ASDA, Lidl, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Tesco, Iceland, Poundland, SPAR and Aldi are implementing measures to ensure social distancing in stores – these include protective screens, hand sanitiser provided in store and directional floor markings to ensure distances are kept in queues.
  • Waitrose has announced a set of new measures to help its customers shop safely, including limiting customer numbers and introducing measures to ensure social distancing.
  • Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Tesco, Marks and Spencer, Iceland and Asda are all reserving an hour in stores for elderly and vulnerable shoppers.
  • Aldi, Marks and Spencer, Iceland, Tesco and Sainsbury’s are creating a special shopping times for NHS and emergency service workers. Waitrose is taking in store measures to ensure NHS workers receive the groceries they need – including reserving essential stock and increasing the size of daily deliveries to all 46 hospital stores across the UK.
  • Sainsbury’s is offering an expanded ‘click and collect service’ and increasing the number of collection sites across the country. Waitrose is introducing special deliveries for vulnerable customers and Morrisons is making more online delivery slots.
  • Tesco, Waitrose, Asda, Aldi, Morrisons, Co-op and Marks and Spencer are all limiting shopping hours so they can restock overnight.
  • Morrisons has introduced immediate payments for its smaller suppliers so they can be paid more quickly. Aldi will pay any supplier with a turnover of less than £1m immediately.
  • The Co-op is fast-tracking recruitment of 5,000 store colleagues to provide temporary employment for hospitality workers who have lost their jobs.
  • Aldi is has launched a recruitment drive to hire 9,000 new workers, including roles in every one of its stores and distribution centres.
  • Lidl has donated £100,000 to the Covid-19 Emergency Community Fund, supporting vulnerable groups such as the elderly, and families who need help during school closures. Lidl has also partnered with FareShare is donating a large volume of ambient products to FareShare and the Trussell Trust. Morrisons is distributing £10 million worth of food to food banks. Asda has donated £5m to food charities to support the most vulnerable people in local communities. Waitrosehas set up a £1m Community Support Fund to help those in need. Marks and Spencer and Lidl have also started community funds. Co-op will donate £1.5m worth of food to FareShare. Iceland Foods Charitable Foundation has donated £150,000 to Age UK to specifically support older people during the COVID-19 crisis.

Actions government is taking:

  • Announcing a £3 million fund for food redistribution organisations to support them cut food waste during the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Delivering the first set of food parcels to clinically vulnerable people who have been advised to stay at home and do not have a local network of family and friends to drop off provisions.
  • Relaxing laws allowing workers who have not taken all of their statutory annual leave entitlement due to the virus will be able to carry it over into the next two leave years.
  • Launching the “Shop Safely” campaign to encourage customers to follow safety guidance when visiting shops to purchase essential items.
  • Environment Secretary George Eustice wrote an open letter to the food and drink industry to praise their efforts to ensure shelves remain stocked across the UK.
  • Working in partnership with the groceries industry, local government, local resilience and emergency partners on a new Local Support System to ensure vulnerable people will receive basic groceries.
  • Relaxing Competition Laws so retailers can work together to keep shops open and stocked. They will be able to share data on stock levels, pool staff to meet demand, or share distribution depots and delivery vans.
  • Working with local authorities to extend delivery hours to supermarkets so shelves can be replenished more quickly.
  • Extending driver hours to help deliver more goods to stores across the UK and to help supermarket delivery drivers meet the increased demand for home deliveries.
  • Relaxing planning rules so pubs and restaurants can operate food delivery services.
  • Waiving the 5p plastic bag charge for online purchases to speed up deliveries.

Getting support with food supplies as a clinically extremely vulnerable person

Up to 1.5 million people in England have been identified by the NHS as being the most clinically vulnerable and therefore at higher risk of severe illness if they contract coronavirus. The NHS has written to many of these individuals asking them to shield themselves at home and minimise non-essential contact with others, and giving them instructions of how to register on a Government website if they need support getting essential food supplies.

If you have received this letter and registered on the Government website and have been assessed as having no other means of accessing food, you will be eligible for a Government food parcel to be delivered to your home. The Government has begun delivering parcels and is working to deliver as many as possible as soon as possible. Your information will be also be passed to food retailers to prioritise you for home delivery slots. If you think you should have received a letter but haven’t had one, then you should contact your GP.

You may not fall into this category of being clinically vulnerable but you are vulnerable in other ways and in need of support getting essential food supplies. The Government is working to identify these individuals as soon as possible, and is working with food retailers and volunteer groups to help prioritise those individuals for home deliveries or support with getting food supplies.

Wherever possible you should continue to rely on friends, family and wider support to help you meet your needs.

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  1. Comment by Anthony Edwards posted on

    My sister-in-law has severe Epilepsy which makes it dangerous for her to use the early hour access at her local Sainsbury’s. But her condition does not appear to qualify her as a vulnerable person using your online form. Therefore Sainsbury’s will not allow me to access the priority home-delivery slots. What can you do to unblock this situation ?

  2. Comment by Cliff thorne posted on

    My mother is 93, disabled, but lives indepedently in her own house. As she should stay at home and not go out to get groceries I logged onto the Government site to register her as vulnerable, so she can get priority delivery. The online form rejected her as she does not have one of the specific health conditions listed. This is not good enough.

  3. Comment by Catherine posted on

    The Kennel Club are waiting for a statement from Defra to confirm if breeders are temporarily allowed to give puppies to new owners without the vet providing a microchip. The law currently states that breeder must microchip puppies before giving them to their new homes. However during COVID 19 this is not possible. When can we expect an update?

    "We are awaiting clarification from Defra about new owners picking up puppies and suitable safety and welfare protocols in these unprecedented times. We’re here to support breeders and new owners, and will update this information as soon as we can."

  4. Comment by Deborah Kuriger posted on

    What is the guidelines regarding horse transportation , I have assumed it is not essential travel to box horses to ride in a safe place away from roads.

  5. Comment by NOVANNE CLARK posted on

    I gave registered myself as disabled and vulnerable on the site. How long does it take fir that information to be conveyed to supermarkets like Sainsbury’s so that I can get my shopping online order delivered ?

  6. Comment by Antony Holyoak posted on

    We are told to stay indoors practice social distancing to protect the NHS and save lives, that we may be spreading virus without showing any symptoms. Holding small calves to be tested by the vet for TB means very close proximity of farmers and vets. So why are vets going from farm to farm doing routine bovine TB testing? If farmers and their families fall ill who is going to tend to the animals?

  7. Comment by Sally Timmins posted on

    Are you able to drive to your allotments or has that been stopped now. We have been told that we can drive there and then it is our form of exercising still maintaining social disintegration standing. Locally we are now being told that we can’t do this. Your advice would be very welcome

  8. Comment by Caroline posted on

    Trying to get a home shopping delivery from Sainsburys as I am extremely vulnerable if I catch coronavirus. They have advised me to register with so they can add me to their list but I dint know how to register as I cant find any info on here

  9. Comment by Anthony Smith posted on

    I am highly vulnerable (copd & af) and want to use Sainsbury’s on line shopping but can’t as they state I am not on their records as vulnerable, cannot speak to them telephone contested. How are they going to be informed of my health status?

  10. Comment by margaret wheeler posted on

    Shelves are still empty in most towns we Can not even get basics let alone fresh veg and meat why can’t they limit one item per customer or even do it on a scale of people per house hold
    I’m a career or my adult son haven’t been able to get basic shopping for two weeks not even toilet roll
    Managed yo get dog and cat food
    As well as toothpaste I can’t eat those
    People should be more considerate for others and they just are not

  11. Comment by E. Salmon posted on

    We are a family farm in East Sussex.
    In 2012 we opened our glamping site, which was a farm diversification project supported by DEFRA and SEEDA and which probably saved the family farm after my parents in law's retirement and subsequent selling off of tracts of it to fund their living costs.
    I have been involved in overseeing that enterprise and also our HLS scheme (which we are in the final year of) and also running care farming sessions under acces via HLS for the last 7 or so years with our local secondary school. We also have arable crops in 30 acres.
    As you can imagine this current situation has hit us badly - our bookings for the glamping site were down already and now we have had to refund the bookings we did have, and also in the holiday cottage on the farm which I also took over.
    The council came out to asses the business a couple of years ago and allowed it to remain an agricultural holding as the enterprises were considered diversification.
    However we find ourselves in a difficult position now. As an agricultural business we do not have a rateable value on business rates, so cannot benefit from the business rate holiday. Similarly we do not appear to be eligible to the grants available based on business rates despite our entire income looking as if it may be wiped out for the season. We cannot get a mortgage holiday because they are only for residential properties for individuals.
    Im worried about the farm, as we will have all the overheads but no income at all.
    The leisure and hospitality industry has been identified as needing support, and hotels, campsites and hostels have been told to shut, but the circumstance of us being on a farm means that we seem to have fallen through the loops. In addition the 2 elderly people are at risk, the other director is at high risk and needs to isolate for 12 weeks, and my daughter has cystic fibrosis, diabetes and asthma and is at the very highest risk, so having anyone at the farm, while I do most of the work on the glampingsite, is impossible all the time that she needs to remain shielded. It also makes it extremely difficult to look at heading off in a new direction without any knowledge or experience.
    We cannot be the only farm business who has relied upon an income from rural tourism, so imagine there are many in our position
    Have you heard if any of this is being raised anywhere?

  12. Comment by Derby Resident posted on

    Hey DEFRA,

    Waste management associations are saying that you've given them the green light for independent scrap metal dealers to keep operating as normal...

    Since scrap metal can sit for weeks without any public health impact, but these people's travel and interactions with people can still spread the virus around, why are rag'n'bone men being allowed to keep going as normal.

    Surely you should be focusing on the removal of household waste and necessary recycling to prevent further public health impacts!? This seems seriously irresponsible on the level of being malfeasance in public office.

    Please advise whether you are treating scrap metal trading as an essential service during this public crisis???

  13. Comment by Barry Williams posted on

    What is the situation re beekeepers ? Can I visit my bees for essential purposes ?

  14. Comment by C. Parrott posted on

    Can you please give guidance in respect of vermin control.
    Foxes can have an impact at this time of year with lambs, pigeons/rabbits can cause damage to crops.
    Are those who can be engaged in vermin control permitted to do so if they follow social distancing guidelines?

  15. Comment by Elaine posted on

    I am a business development executive who works in the field of convenience stores. We sell biscuits. We are expected to visit at least 14 different stores a day, most of which you cannot stand a meter away from another person. If we make a sale we are then exchanging money. We have been deemed a critical worker, but the shop owners can buy their biscuits when they visit cash and carry for their other stock.Our company will not stop us going out there. I am mildly asthmatic, but will not self isolate due to 9nly getting paid ssp. How can we still be working?

  16. Comment by Ronald Broadbent posted on

    It is more organised at most supermarkets now to help reduce the spread of coronavirus ,but a lot of shoppers are still not adhering to to the 2 metre distancing rule because of the volume of people in aisles. Yet again NO soap, toilet rolls,tissues and cleaning materials in stock.This does need to be addressed quickly as it is forcing shoppers to visit more shops with increased frequency just to get by,which will result in unnecessary deaths.This is not a moan or gripe,just an observation from a concerned Uk resident.Regards Ron Broadbenf

  17. Comment by Julian Smith posted on

    Guys, can we sort out the construction workers still going to work during the coronavirus lockdown. The Government's current stance of saying this is ok provided the 2m social distancing rule is, as we have seen, absurd; and the communications sector (such as Beacon Telecomms working on the residential block of flats where I live as I write) and others further justify their actions by claiming that they are carrying out essential works (they're updating 5G-related ariels on a non-emergency basis) based on government advice, including a post from the Northern Ireland Education Department (we're in England!) which could suggest all telecommunication works are essential. This forwarded to me by a Beacon Telecomms manager working safely from home and not living in a block trying to maintain lockdown but being used as a worksite. The disrespect of Beacon Telecomms for their own workers and our residents who are making such sacrifices is beyond a joke and intensely morale-sapping.

  18. Comment by Ian Webster posted on

    Can defra please publish advice to allotment holders, Michael Gove yesterday said it was OK to tend allotments as this falls under exercise, as long as social distancing was practiced. I can then print off the advice and display it on the allotment gates, notice boards etc

  19. Comment by Toney posted on

    No mention of direct assistance for farmers supermarkets only distribute food No mention of agriculture or food processor s

  20. Comment by Linda posted on

    What is the situation with regards to allotments

  21. Comment by Derek Atherton posted on

    I have been informed by the NHS Coronavirus service that I am extremely vulnerable at risk of severe illness if I catch coronovirus. I have already been in self isolation for 2 weeks and this adds at least 12 more. I cannot leave my house, can open a window and must not allow people within the house closer than 3 paces.
    Ordering on line is a nightmare with unrealistic minimum order charges and restrictions on number of items for each item needed.
    I need to order the exact number of each item I need for delivery with a week. My last shop was about 3 weeks ago and I am rationed to 5 slices of bread a week to my first delivery slot on 8th March.

  22. Comment by John penny posted on

    More guidance is needed in which businesses can continue to operate. E.g. what about professional dog walkers and those visiting pets whilst their owners are abroad? I assume going into households to pick up dogs to walk would be inappropriate but exceptionally on animal welfare grounds a pet visit could continue until their owners return from abroad? And what about dog parks where dog owners have exclusive use of an enclosed field. Presumably subject to max 2 people, for one dog walk/exercise session, and as it supports one form if exercise per day, it would be acceptable to remain open?

  23. Comment by Darren Ashton posted on

    What about tending to allotments and poultry plots on allotments - what is being advised?

  24. Comment by Deborah Ritchie posted on

    What is the advice regarding lock down (23/03/2020 8.30pm) in relation to allotments and the care of livestock on allotments please? 1000s of allotment tenants are clogging up forums asking the same question and all their interpretations are different.

  25. Comment by Andy Goldring posted on

    Is there any guidance for farmers and growers? Food production must continue, so how should farmers and growers respond. Of particular concern is smaller horticultural operations that require greater numbers of workers.

    We are wanting to advice our membership and our many smallholders and farm business members.

  26. Comment by Charles Henry LEVETT-SCRIVENER posted on

    Last Wednesday I sent this email to two MPs
    Wednesday, 18 Mar, 2020 At 13:38
    Subject: Covid 19, Vegetables and British Agriculture
    Dear Dr Coffey and Mrs May

    Following the closing of most international borders due to Covid 19 most UK vegetable and fruit farmers are unable to recruit the bulk of the required temporary staff from eastern Europe.

    This will impact production during the rest of this year and probably all of 2021. There is likely to be great shortages later this year and next year.

    Most other farmers will neither have the machinery or staff to replace the lost production; however this spring's planting is running late and it is not too late to change plans.

    In particular, peas and beans can be allowed to dry in the field and then combined.

    The Government needs urgently to relax Ecological Focus Area rules to allow intended fallow fields to be drilled with peas and beans (and to help with sourcing of seeds).

    For other less manual labour intensive vegetable crops e.g. carrots, farmers can plant but would help with contractors or labour to lift from the fields.

    Next year, to increase domestic vegetable oil production the ban on neonicotinoids needs to be lifted. This year unchecked cabbage flea beetle propagation and a mild winter has devastated the East Anglian Oil Seed Rape crop.

    Finally, more radically you may wish to consider conscripting for this spring and summer (and next year), the recently made unemployed waiters and waitresses, bar staff etc. into a New British Land Army to replace the lost East European workers

    Charles Levett-Scrivener

    Mrs May's office has been in contact
    I sent this update

    an update
    we have not been able to source the seeds to drill the fallow land, or to replace the low in put barleys or the over wintering stubble.

    after this wet autumn and winter plus serious losses to OSR from cabbage flea beetle and pigeons very little suitable seed in UK, as farmers have ploughed the OSR back in and are re-drilling..
    Any seed will need to flown from Australia or New Zealand where it is autumn to arrive in time.
    Charles L-S