The medical director of NHS England has said everyone should “be ashamed” that vital healthcare staff were being deprived of supplies due to panic-buying.
Stephen Powis called on the public to think of those working long days to look after our loved ones when shopping.
The appeal came at the government’s daily coronavirus briefing today, which was led by Environment secretary George Eustice.
Eustice told the public to “be responsible and think of others” when shopping for food amid the vast panic-buying that has been occurring.
He said there was more than enough food to go around.
Supermarkets have been overwhelmed by increased purchasing in recent weeks and there has been £1bn’s worth of extra food bought in the last three weeks than usual.
But Eustice said the challenge was keeping shelves stocked, rather than a lack of produce.
NHS England boss Powis, who joined Eustice at the briefing, said: “We should all be ashamed”.
He said panic-buyers were depriving NHS and other public service staff from supplies they need.
“These are the very people that we all need to look after perhaps us or our loved ones in the weeks to come.”
He cited an emotional video appeal from a critical care nurse earlier this week as she was left unable to purchase necessary food after a long shift.
Speaking in Downing Street, Eustice said: “We recognise that this is a challenging time and there are many things the government is asking the nation to do differently as we work together to fight this pandemic.
“Be responsible when you shop and think of others. Buying more than you need means others may be left without.”
He added: “There’s no shortage of food. Food manufacturing has geared up to meet an increase in demand and it is up by 50%.
The head of the British Retail Consortium, Helen Dickinson, also reassured the public that there “is plenty of food in the supply chain.”
“The issue is around people and lorries getting food onto shelves quick enough,” she said.
She said the food industry was experiencing “a peak in demand” like at Christmas, but “without the four-month build-up period.”
Dickinson added: “There is £1bn more food in people’s houses than there was three weeks ago, so we should make sure we eat some of it.”
Asked whether the government would intervene and enforce buying limits per customer, Eustice said retailers were collectively coming to agreements on which products that would be necessary and that there was no need for intervention.
“Toilet roll is one, where, for reasons that are not really known, there was a spike early on, despite the fact that toilet roll is made in this country and they are able to expand production very quickly,” he said.
Many stores are ready to hire thousands more staff to meet the unprecedented demand, including Tesco, Asda, Aldi, and Lidl.
Tesco, the UK’s biggest supermarket, said it wants to take on 20,000 temporary workers “to help feed the nation”.
Powis also reiterated the importance of people avoiding social contact.
“It’s not for somebody else to follow, it’s for you to follow, it’s for me to follow, it’s for everybody to follow,” he said.
“This is all our problem and if we do it together, it will be an effective strategy. If you do it, you follow the advice, you will be saving somebody’s life.
“This is the time in your lifetime whereby your action can save somebody’s life. It is as simple and as stark as that.”