The government is “confident” food supplies will not run out amid concerns that coronavirus will cause people to panic-buy, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.
Hancock told BBC Question Time on 5th March that individuals should not buy more food than they need. The government has also said it has a stockpile of important medicines and protective equipment to counter any impact the virus might have on global supply chains.
The secretary’s comments came as health officials said some patients who tested positive for coronavirus were being treated in their homes.
He said: “The government has supplies of the key things that are needed. And within the food supply, we are absolutely confident that there won’t be a problem there.
“Crucially, we are working with the supermarkets to make sure that, if people are self-isolating, then we will be able to get the food and supplies that they need”.
The British Retail Consortium said retailers had “well-developed contingency plans” to deal with disruptions and changes in demand. So far, the organisation said, supply chain disruption caused by the virus had been limited and product availability is still good.
A spokesperson told the BBC: “Where appropriate, action is being taken, including securing alternative suppliers in order to avoid or minimise any impact for customers and meet the rise in demand for certain hygiene products in particular”.
Prof. Chris Whitty, the UK’s chief medical adviser, also said there was “no need” for the public to stockpile food or medicine. He added the outbreak would be a “marathon not a sprint”.
However, shops in London are already facing shortages of sanitation products including hand washes and face masks.