Panic buyers ‘should be ashamed’ as medical expert urges end to stockpiling

Virus crisis panic buyers were told they "should be ashamed" for causing needless shortages for NHS staff as the retail industry insisted there was enough food for everyone and the Government ruled out rationing.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said there was no shortage of food in the country amid the coronavirus pandemic, with manufacturers having increased production by 50%.

At the daily Downing Street press conference, NHS England national medical director Stephen Powis said the country should be ashamed that key medical staff were left unable to buy food at the end of their shifts.

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Supermarket shoppers form epic queues
In Pictures: Coronavirus contrast of empty motorways and supermarket queues
People form a long queue snaking a long way round the parking lot, as they wait to enter a wholesaler supermarket in Coventry, England, early Saturday March 21, 2020. The government has ordered the closure of public gathering places like restaurants, pubs, gyms and leisure centres in an effort to control the spread of coronavirus. For some people the COVID-19 coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, but for others it causes severe illness. (Jacob King / PA via AP)
In Pictures: Coronavirus contrast of empty motorways and supermarket queues
People form a long queue snaking a long way round the parking lot, as crowds wait to enter a wholesaler supermarket in Coventry, England, early Saturday March 21, 2020. The government has ordered the closure of public gathering places like restaurants, pubs, gyms and leisure centres in an effort to control the spread of coronavirus. For some people the COVID-19 coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, but for others it causes severe illness. (Jacob King / PA via AP)
In Pictures: Coronavirus contrast of empty motorways and supermarket queues
In Pictures: Coronavirus contrast of empty motorways and supermarket queues
People wait outside a Tesco Express store at 10.30am on Saturday morning as some supermarkets are restricting opening hours in response to the Coronavirus outbreak. Photo credit should read: Katie Collins/EMPICS
People queue outside of a Costco store in Watford, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, Britain, March 19, 2020. REUTERS/Paul Childs TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People queue outside of a Waitrose supermarket in St Albans, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, Britain, March 19, 2020. REUTERS/Matthew Childs
People queue to shop at Sainsbury's supermarket in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, where the store had announced that the first hour of opening would be for elderly and vulnerable customers.
Early shoppers queue and wait in line for the opening of a supermarket in Rugby, England, Thursday, March 19, 2020. According to the World Health Organization, most people recover in about two to six weeks, depending on the severity of the illness. Some supermarkets are limiting the number of similar items shopper can buy to try and halt hoarding and panic buying, when the supermarket groups and government say there is no shortages in the supply chain. (AP Photo/Martin Cleaver)
Customers wait in a long queue to enter a Costco members wholesale outlet in Farnborough, west of London, on March 19, 2020. - Britain's supermarkets stepped up efforts to safeguard supplies, especially for vulnerable and elderly customers, as the sector battles stockpiling caused by coronavirus panic. (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS / AFP) (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Customers wait in a long queue to enter a Costco members wholesale outlet in Farnborough, west of London, on March 19, 2020. - Britain's supermarkets stepped up efforts to safeguard supplies, especially for vulnerable and elderly customers, as the sector battles stockpiling caused by coronavirus panic. (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS / AFP) (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)
PLYMOUTH, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 19: Shoppers queue outside a Sainsbury's supermarket prior to opening in Plymouth on March 19, 2020 in Plymouth, United Kingdom. The store allowed only the elderly and vulnerable into the store for the first hour. After spates of "panic buying" cleared supermarket shelves of items like toilet paper and cleaning products, stores across the UK have introduced limits on purchases during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some have also created special time slots for the elderly and other shoppers vulnerable to the new coronavirus. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
PLYMOUTH, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 19: Shoppers queue outside a Sainsbury's supermarket prior to opening in Plymouth on March 19, 2020 in Plymouth, United Kingdom. The store allowed only the elderly and vulnerable into the store for the first hour. After spates of "panic buying" cleared supermarket shelves of items like toilet paper and cleaning products, stores across the UK have introduced limits on purchases during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some have also created special time slots for the elderly and other shoppers vulnerable to the new coronavirus. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
NORTHWICH, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 19: Senior citizens queue to shop at Sainsbury's Supermarket on March 19, 2020 in Northwich, United Kingdom. A queue of approximately 600 old age pensioners formed before the market opened at 7am as the shop opened specially for the elderly. After spates of "panic buying" cleared supermarket shelves of items like toilet paper and cleaning products, stores across the UK have introduced limits on purchases during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some have also created special time slots for the elderly and other shoppers vulnerable to the new coronavirus. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
People queue outside of a Costco store in Watford, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, Britain, March 19, 2020. REUTERS/Paul Childs
People queue outside of a Costco store in Watford, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, Britain, March 19, 2020. REUTERS/Paul Childs
People queue outside of a Costco store in Watford, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, Britain, March 19, 2020. REUTERS/Paul Childs
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Mr Eustice said that people buying more than they needed meant key NHS workers fighting the disease were faced with empty shelves when they tried to shop.

He said the message to the public was: "Be responsible when you shop and think of others.

"Buying more than you need means others may be left without. We all have a role to play in ensuring we all come through this together."

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said there was "plenty of food" in the supply chain.

"The issue is around people and lorries, so getting that food right into the front line onto our shelves, which is why we've seen some shortages," she said.

"There is a billion pounds' more food in people's houses than there was three weeks ago, so we should make sure we eat some of it."

Mr Powis referred to a video posted online by a critical care nurse in tears after she was unable to find anything to buy to eat at the end of her shift.

"Frankly we should all be ashamed that that has to happen. It is unacceptable. These are the very people we will all need to look after perhaps us or our loved ones in the weeks," he said.

"It is critical that by not stockpiling, by not selfishly shopping, that our health workers are able to get access to what they need too."

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