Monday 30 March 2020 1:43 pm

Coronavirus: When are supermarket opening times for NHS and pensioners?

As the UK heads into lockdown because of the coronavirus outbreak, supermarkets have enforced tighter restrictions and changed opening hours.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday ordered all “non-essential” shops to close, leaving supermarkets one of the few stores to remain open.

In recent weeks supermarkets have struggled to keep shelves replenished as consumers embarked on coronavirus panic buying sprees in anticipation of tighter restrictions.

Read more: Coronavirus: Aldi, Morrisons and Waitrose ease stockpiling restrictions

When are supermarkets’ opening times during the coronavirus outbreak?

Johnson said supermarkets will stay open amid the lockdown, but some shops have cut hours in a bid to restock shelves.

Last week Asda and Tesco announced their 24-hour stores will close from 10pm to 6am to aid restocking. And several others announced they will operate slightly shorter trading hours.

Aldi stores open from 8am but are closing two hours early every night at 8pm to give staff the opportunity to restock. Iceland and Lidl stores also open from 8am, while Morrisons has not yet announced any changes to opening times ,with most opening at 7am.

Sainsbury’s stores are open between 8am and 8pm, and Tesco is open between 6am and 10pm.

What are the supermarket opening times for NHS workers and pensioners?

Over the weekend, the PM said 1.5m vulnerable and elderly people will have to self-isolate for up to 12 weeks during the coronavirus outbreak.

Some supermarkets have dedicated hours to the elderly and vulnerable to ensure they’re able to pick supplies amid the coronavirus outbreak without worrying if items are sold out.

In a similar vein, some supermarkets are prioritising NHS workers after mass panic buying left some stores stripped of goods.


Tesco has said the first opening hour of all its supermarket opening times will be dedicated to elderly and vulnerable customers. That means .

NHS staff who show a valid ID card are able to shop for an hour before normal opening hours every Sunday at Tesco.


Sainsbury’s supermarkets will be open to the elderly between 8am and 9am every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

NHS workers have a dedicated slot between 7.30am and 8am Monday to Saturday at Sainsbury’s.


Waitrose has also made the first opening hour of its supermarkets available only to vulnerable shoppers.

It does not have any opening hours reserved for key coronavirus workers. But it will hold aside some of the most popular items for such staff.


Marks & Spencer will invite only elderly and vulnerable shoppers into its supermarkets for their first hour of trading on Mondays and Thursdays. NHS workers will get sole access on Tuesdays and Fridays.


Similarly, Asda has given priority to NHS workers in its larger stores every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8am to 9am. It has not reserved any opening hours solely for elderly or vulnerable shoppers.


NHS staff will have dedicated shopping times at Morrisons supermarkets between 7am and 8am throughout the week, save for Sundays. It has not outlined specific hours for vulnerable shoppers.


Iceland has announced that online orders have been limited to customers who are over state pension age, those in self-isolation and other vulnerable people.

Read more: Ocado sales double as demand soars amid coronavirus panic

A shopper walks past empty milk and dairy shelves amidst the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, in Manchester, northern England (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

Can I order online during the coronavirus outbreak?

In his address to the nation, the Prime Minister urged Brits to move to online delivery as he tightened coronavirus restrictions.

“You should not be going shopping except for essentials like food and medicine – and you should do this as little as you can. And use food delivery services where you can,” Johnson said.

However in recent weeks, supermarkets’ online delivery services have faced a surge in demand in the face of coronavirus restrictions.

Ocado online delivery

Last week, Ocado shut its website for several days as it struggled to cope with the surge in demand. It has stopped any deliveries to new online accounts as it attempts to meet demand.

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Tesco online delivery

Tesco’s online service is operating as normal but shoppers have found there are no available delivery slots.

Guidance on its website says: “To help free up slots for the more vulnerable, such as our elderly customers and those who are self-isolating, we are encouraging customers who shop online or choose Click & Collect for their grocery home shopping, to prioritise shopping in-store where possible.”

The supermarket has now boosted the number of online delivery and click and collect slots by more than 100,000 as it copes with the increase in demand.

Tesco has increased capacity from 660,000 two weeks ago to 780,000 this week, with plans to add a further 100,000 in the next few weeks. It said it. had hired an additional 200 vans, 2,500 drivers and 5,000 stock pickers but is continuing to urge customers to shop in store if they are able to.

Sainsbury’s online delivery

Slots are also scarce at Sainsbury’s, where it has stopped taking orders from newly created accounts to prioritise elderly and vulnerable customers.

Morrisons online delivery

Morrisons has launched a food box service for people who cannot get a delivery slot. Shoppers can pay £35 for a box of shopping but they cannot choose what’s inside, although the supermarket has promised it is full of essentials.

Online delivery outfit Milk & More

Milk & More was delivering shopping as early as last week but it has seen shortages of in-demand products such as eggs. Shoppers have struggled to access the website, and when they do, face huge shopping queues.

Milk & More shopping queue amid the coronavirus impact on shopping
Milk & More shopping queue amid the coronavirus impact on shopping (Not Getty Image)

Read more: Stockpiling: Shoppers buying ‘a few extra items’ driving shelf shortages

How are supermarkets preventing coronavirus stockpiling?

Supermarkets have begun to ease restrictions on the number of productions customers can buy as availability has improved.

Earlier this month, major supermarkets were forced to limit the number of items shoppers could buy, after a period of panic buying.

Aldi had limited shoppers to four items on all products but this morning announced that, while the purchase of some in-demand products is still limited, restrictions on most have been limited.

Items such as toilet roll, pasta and alcohol are still subject to the four-per-person rule. Hand wash, bleach, shower gel, some canned goods and part baked breads are also restricted.

Asda has said people can buy up to three of any product across food items, toiletries and cleaning products.

Sainsbury’s customers can buy a maximum of three of any grocery product and a maximum of two of the most popular items, including toilet roll, soap and UHT milk. Tesco has also limited toilet roll, anti-bacterial wipes, dried pasta to two per person.

Morrisons has increased the limit for some items from three to four per customers. Restrictions on some products have been removed to encourage customers to donate to food banks, which have reported a slump in donations. 

Tesco is reportedly introducing floor markings in car parkings to help customers maintain safe distances when queuing, and similar measures will be taken in stores.

What are supermarkets’ social distancing measures?

This morning Waitrose and Sainsbury’s said they would limit the number of people allowed in stores at any one time to ensure social distancing measures are adhered to.

Waitrose said it will operate a one in, one out policy when shops are at capacity.

The supermarket said marshals will help to manage queues outside stores and enforce the two-metre social distancing rule. Floor stickers will also be introduced into all Waitrose supermarkets to ensure customers keep two metres apart while queuing at a checkout.

Read more: Waitrose and Lidl impose stricter coronavirus measures in supermarkets

As part of efforts to protect staff, the supermarket has ordered checkout screens and protective visors for staff. Supermarkets are also encouraging customers to use contactless cards to pay, not cash.

Lidl and Aldi have already rolled out protective screens nationwide to protect staff and customers. Tesco is reportedly also installing screens at checkouts.

Aldi and Waitrose have both urged shoppers to use contactless payments where possible to avoid cash. It comes after the spending limit for contactless card payments was raised from £30 to £45 yesterday amid the coronavirus outbreak.

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