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Supermarkets: Coronavirus

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN 33719, tabled on 23 March 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, with reference to the covid-19 outbreak, what steps he is taking to help ensure that people that are unable to leave their home and depend on online shopping for their groceries receive deliveries that are (a) timely and (b) complete.

Answered on

31 March 2020

The Government has well-established ways of working with the food industry during disruption to supply situations. Our retailers already have highly resilient supply chains and they are working around the clock to ensure people have the food and products they need. Industry is adapting quickly to these changes in demands, and we welcome the actions they are taking to support demand for online deliveries, including hiring more staff and prioritising delivery slots for those that need them most.

To help industry respond to this unprecedented demand we have introduced new measures to support online deliveries. We have issued guidance to local authorities to allow extended delivery hours to supermarkets so that shelves can be filled up more quickly, and we have implemented extensions to drivers’ hours. We are also temporarily relaxing certain elements of competition law to ensure retailers are able to collaborate effectively in the national interest, for example by sharing distribution depots and delivery vans.

The Government is working to ensure that up to 1.5 million people in England identified by the NHS as being at higher risk of severe illness if they contract Coronavirus will have access to the food they need. A new Local Support System has been put in place to make sure those individuals self-isolating at home and who are without a support network of friends and family receive basic food and essential supplies. The Government is working with a partnership of the food industry, local government, local resilience forums and emergency partners, and voluntary groups, to ensure that essential items are being delivered to those who need it.