The Government’s advice for those reducing social contact is, where possible, to ask family, friends and neighbours to assist with purchasing food and medicine; or to use online services.
However, the Government has announced the creation of a new Local Support System that will ensure those who are self-isolating, and do not have family and friends to support them, will be able to get groceries delivered to them by their local council. Community pharmacies will also be established to support those who need help getting their medicines delivered.
The Government is working with supermarkets, local government, the Armed Forces, local resilience and emergency forums, as well as voluntary groups, to ensure that essential items can start to be delivered as soon as possible to those in need. Those identified as the most vulnerable are in the process of being contacted directly.
However, once the scheme is established, those who are older, vulnerable or key workers, and have not been contacted directly, will be able to contact their local council to be added to the scheme. Once received, further details will be uploaded here.
In the meantime, a number of the UK’s largest supermarkets, such as Sainsbury’s, Asda, Tesco and Iceland, have introduced measures to assist elderly and vulnerable customers. Dedicated opening hours for elderly customers and key workers have been established, while home deliveries will be free and prioritise key workers, the elderly and the vulnerable.
Indeed, Morrison’s is in the process of hiring an additional 3,500 delivery drivers to expand its capacity as well as create a customer call centre so that those who do not shop online can instead order over the phone and still make use of the delivery service. In total, over the last week alone, major supermarkets have hired in excess of 40,000 new members of staff to meet the additional pressures and demand being experienced
The Government have also announced changes to planning rules. These changes enable pubs and restaurants to operate as hot food takeaways during the coronavirus outbreak to serve people having to stay at home. Despite pubs, restaurants and cafes being required to close, they are still able to take advantage of these rules and remain open so long as they only operate as a takeaway business. I am pleased to hear of several businesses already taking advantage of this change locally, and I hope many more will follow suit to help get food to those unable to leave their homes.
There are, of course, concerns about food stocks in supermarkets. The reality is that there is plenty of food and other necessaries in the supply chain but supermarket are struggling to cope with the increased demand; caused, frankly, by selfish people who are buying more than they need without a thought for others.
Supermarkets have acted to limit the number of items that customers can purchase, in most cases to no more than three of any one item. Moreover, the Government has relaxed competition laws, which will allow retailers to share data with each other on stock levels, cooperate to keep shops open, and share distribution depots and delivery vans. This change will also allow retailers to pool staff with one another to help meet demand.
Changes to competition laws are but one of a number of ways the Government is altering rules to support food retailers. Further changes included: extending the hours that deliveries can be made to supermarkets, ensuring stores can be replenished quickly – day and night; altering drivers’ hours rules, meaning delivery drivers can work slightly longer hours to help offer additional delivery slots; and temporarily relax the single-use carrier bag charge for online deliveries, speeding up deliveries and minimising any cross-contamination from reusing crates.
The Government will also take emergency powers through the Coronavirus Bill to monitor food supply and ensure that the food supply chain remains resilient so that people can continue to get the food and groceries they need.
Finally, I would strongly encourage that you keep up to date with the advice and guidance being provided by both the UK Government and the Welsh Government. You can follow developments through either the Prime Minister’s daily briefing, which takes place at around 17:00 every day and is televised on BBC News, or through the dedicated web pages produced by both governments on their websites; these are as follows:
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At the December 2019 General Election, David was re-elected as the Member of Parliament for Clwyd West, with an increased vote share of 50.7%.