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Doing your shopping – coronavirus advice

There's a lot going on at the moment, but one of the things that's making people anxious is how they will do their shopping. We've put together some information about when and where you can get the essentials you need  – and whether you should be going out to do it at all. 

Can I go shopping?

If you’re at increased risk of being severely affected by coronavirus – if you’re aged 70 or older or under 70 with an underlying health condition – you should ask friends, family and neighbours to support you with essential supplies such as food and medicine.

If this isn’t possible, you can go out for essentials but should make this as infrequent as possible. You should also make sure to practise social distancing (remaining 2 metres or 3 steps away from others) and wash your hands thoroughly (for at least 20 seconds) when you get back home.

However, if you’re self-isolating because you or someone in your household has coronavirus symptoms or you have been identified on medical grounds as ‘extremely vulnerable’, then you shouldn’t be leaving the house.

NHS England will be writing to all those who are ‘extremely vulnerable’ and the letter you receive will include information on how you can get support for essential supplies. You can find more information here

Where can I go to get supplies?

The Government has closed a number of shops considered ‘non-essential’ to reduce the spread of coronavirus. The following remain open so you can still get what you need:

  • Supermarkets and other food shops
  • Pharmacies including non-dispensing chemists
  • Banks
  • Newsagents and off-licences
  • Post offices
  • Health shops
  • Pet shops
  • Some food delivery and takeaways are open from restaurants and cafes
  • Laundrettes and dry cleaners
  • Petrol stations
  • Bicycle shops
  • Car rentals
  • Home and hardware shops
  • Non-essential shopping deliveries for example clothes and toys

What are supermarkets doing to support me?

Several large supermarket chains have introduced measures to support older people get the supplies they need, such as protected shopping hours and priority delivery slots.

They’re also introducing measures to reduce people stockpiling items such as toilet paper and pasta, restricting the purchase of certain products in high demand and only allowing a certain number of people in the stores at one time.

The government have provided some supermarkets with the list of those who have been identified as clinically extremely vulnerable and advised to shield. Supermarkets are prioritising delivery slots for these people, and you should check with your local supermarket to see how you can access this support.

Check with your local supermarket to see what they're doing

What if I can't do my shopping?

If you’re not able to go out for essential supplies because you’re self-isolating or shielding and can’t get support from others, you can use the following options for support:

  • Your local Age UK may be able to support you or be aware of local provisions being made in your area. You can find their contact details here by entering your postcode.
  • Community aid groups have been created in response to the coronavirus and offer help to those in need in the community. Most of these can be accessed via social media such as Facebook or Twitter
  • Your Local Authority may be able to support you or signpost to those who can. You can find your Local Authority here.
  • Vulnerable people can self-refer into the NHS Volunteer Scheme to get support for shopping, medication delivery and check in and chat calls. This includes those who are over 70 with underlying health conditions and all those with particular conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. To self-refer you can call 0808 196 3646. For more information and to see whether you are eligible for this support please see here.

How do I pay for my shopping if I can’t go out?

UK Finance have lots of information on their website about different ways you can pay for your shopping. Including a tool to find the best option for you. You can find this information here.

Here are some top tips to help get the essentials you need:

  • Make a list of the things you need day-to-day, including food, household essentials and medication.
  • There is no need to stockpile. Shops and pharmacies will keep refreshing their supplies and many have introduced measures to reduce stockpiling.
  • A change in routine may mean you find eating and drinking more difficult for tips on eating and drinking well see here.
  • It may take longer than usual to receive online deliveries to your home, so plan ahead, particularly if you usually have prescriptions delivered. If you have any concerns about your medication, talk to your pharmacist.
  • If someone claims to be from a recognised organisation, ask to see proof or check with the organisation itself. 
  • If someone you don’t know offers you help with your shopping don’t feel pressured to accept help. If you do accept help never hand-over money, bank details or cards to someone you don’t know offering to help you.
  • If someone offers to do your shopping, ask for a receipt so that you can pay them on their return to cover the costs of the items.


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Last updated: May 05 2020

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