Tesco warns 85% of customers will have to shop in store

Social distancing markers at a Tesco Extra in Wembley as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Tesco is warning up to 90% of customers will have to shop in stores, despite public concern over the risks to shoppers and staff during the coronavirus pandemic.

The supermarket giant said on Wednesday it had invested heavily and rapidly in expanding its home delivery services for groceries. Its capacity has risen by 20% in the past fortnight, with 145,000 extra shopping slots.

But it warned: "Whilst we have already stepped up our capacity on grocery Home Shopping....and will continue to increase this, there is simply not enough capacity to supply the whole market."

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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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Britain's biggest supermarket said it would continue to work with the government to offer priority delivery slots for "vulnerable people without a support network." Between 85% and 90% of its shoppers will have to continue shopping in stores, it added.

The comments in its preliminary financial results suggest there is a limit to how far the public can follow official government advice to "use food delivery services where you can."

With supermarkets now some of the only shops allowed to continue trading and stores busy, there is concern about potential exposure to COVID-19 for shopworkers and shoppers alike.

But stores have been transformed in a bid to limit risks, with limits on customer numbers, floor markings, 'one-in, one-out' policies and in some stores protective screens. Long queues of shoppers on the street all several metres apart are now a common sight outside supermarkets and convenience stores across the country.

Shopworkers' union Usdaw has urged the public to wash their hands before shopping, keep their distance from staff and use contactless cards to further minimise the risks.

Tesco has also given its staff a 10% pay boost, with chief executive Dave Lewis praising their "unbelievable commitment" on Wednesday.

But it also said it had experienced "significant absence" levels among colleagues, forcing it to hire staff to replace workers on paid sick leave as well as meet surging demand. The company's share price (TSCO.L) slid as it warned this and higher distribution and store expenses could cost up to £925m.

- This article first appeared on Yahoo

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