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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, where and how you can get the essentials you need  – and whether you should be going out to do it at all. 

Can I go shopping?

Yes you can go shopping, however if you’re considered clinically vulnerable (e.g. you are over 70) then you should take extra care and may want to consider some of the following:

  • When out and about you should practice social distancing and stay 2 metres away from anyone not in your household or support bubble
  • Wash your hands on your return home for 20 seconds and avoid touching your face
  • You should make your trips as infrequent as possible
  • You may still wish to rely on family, friends and neighbours to pick up supplies for you
  • It is now mandatory for those that can, to wear a face coverings inside shops, for more information see our face coverings guidance here
  • You may still not feel comfortable going out shopping and that’s okay too, there are still options available for support, see below for more information.

If you’re considered clinically extremely vulnerable or were previously advised to shield, then you can go shopping but are advised to go at quieter times or speak to friends, family and neighbours to see whether they can support you to get what you need. You can also consider online and telephone delivery options If you already have a priority delivery slot, then this will continue until June 21.

You shouldn’t be going shopping if you fall into any of the categories below:

  • You’re self-isolating because you or someone in your household or support bubble has coronavirus symptoms
  • You’re self-isolating as someone in your household or support bubble has a positive test result
  • You’re self-isolating as you’ve been advised by the NHS Test and Trace service that you’ve been in close contact with someone who has a positive coronavirus test
  • You’re self-isolating as you have recently returned from a country where you need to isolate on your entry to the UK.

Where can I go to get supplies?

From 12 April all retail is allowed to be open. There will still be restrictions within shops, such as number of people, social distancing and face coverings for those who can.

Many stores will offer online options, click and collect or other options so you may want to check with individual shops and businesses what their options are.

The Government have published this information on what options are available if you can’t leave your home to shop. It includes both online and telephone delivery service options and outlines what different organisations are doing to support you.

What are supermarkets doing to support me?

Several large supermarket chains have introduced measures to support older people to get the supplies they need, such as protected shopping hours, priority delivery slots. Unless you’re exempt it’s compulsory to wear a face-covering in shops.

If you’re clinically extremely vulnerable and so have been advised not to go to shops and had a priority supermarket delivery slot these will continue until June 21.

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

When should I wear a face covering?

It's now mandatory to wear a face covering in all shops, supermarkets and shopping centres.

However these rules do not apply to everyone and you do not need to wear a face covering if you or the person you care for:

  • find it difficult to put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
  • find that putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress
  • are travelling with or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading to communicate
  • need to eat or drink
  • need to take medication
  • are avoiding harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury to yourself or others.

This list of exemptions is not exhaustive. You don't have to wear a face-covering if you have justifiable reasons for not wearing one, due to your health or disability.

It may not always be clear why someone is not wearing a face covering, so it's important to be respectful of those who aren't.

For more information on face coverings, including the suitability of certain masks, when else you may need to wear one and where you can get them from see our face coverings advice here.

What if I can't do my shopping?

If you’re not able to go out for essential supplies because you’re self-isolating 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.
  • You can call our helpline on 0800 678 1602 and we may be able to support you to get a supermarket delivery slot.
  • 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.
  • The NHS Volunteer Scheme who can provide  support for shopping, medication delivery and check in and chat calls. To self-refer, you can call 0808 196 3646 (8am-8pm). 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: Apr 20 2021

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