During the early part of 2020, when Covid-19 first swept the nation, empty supermarket shelves became a common sight across the UK. The surge in panic buying led to supermarkets placing restrictions on many essential items such as toilet tissue and pasta.
Recently, photos have emerged showing images of supermarket shelves stripped bare, and there are fears these images could spark another surge in panic buying among worried consumers.
Richard Walker, the Managing Director of supermarket giant, Iceland, has urged consumers not to start panic buying. He said that the images that have surfaced are simply isolated incidents and described the company’s supply chains as being ‘resilient.’
He said, "There is certainly no problem with supply of stock and there's absolutely no need for people to panic buy. We certainly don't want to go back to the dark days of April 2020 because panic buying is only an option for those who can afford it and it often means that others go without."
Mr Walker admitted that there was a risk of some shops having to close temporarily due to staffing problems caused by them having to self-isolate. He also said that there were some availability issues with certain products.
Exemption from self-isolation for retail staff
One of the things that Mr Walker did point out was the importance of exemption from self-isolation for retail staff.
Iceland is one of several major retailers to have expressed concerns over the growing numbers of employees being pinged by the NHS app and told to self-isolate. This is having a significant impact on the ability of retailers to operate and keep their doors open. Businesses are also calling for those who have received both jabs or have daily tests to be allowed to return to work.
The supermarket chain currently has nearly 4% of its staff off work, with the majority being absent due to self-isolation rules. The company is now recruiting thousands of temporary staff to help deal with the situation. The Co-op has also taken on thousands of extra workers.
The British Retail Consortium is now calling on the government to quickly make fully vaccinated or regularly tested retail workers exempt from self-isolation. However, government officials have so far insisted that people must isolate when told to do so to control the spread of Covid, although there is talk of a critical worker exemption list being released on Thursday.