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Coronavirus: Paramedic stares at shelves cleared by 'locusts' after shift saving lives

Mirror logo Mirror 20/03/2020 Graham Hiscott
a person standing next to a platform at a train station: A paramedic is faced with shelves stripped of foods © Provided by Mirror A paramedic is faced with shelves stripped of foods

Selfish panic-buyers have been branded “locusts” as shelves are picked clean amid scenes of chaos sparked by the Covid-19 pandemic.

A desperate paramedic who had been out saving lives at work was left staring at empty shelves in a Sainsbury's in a picture

Environment Secretary George Eustice insisted we have enough food and supplies to go round and warned stockpilers to “be considerate”.

But his words fell on deaf ears as coronavirus fears fuelled a “crazy” rush to hoard food, medicines, sanitary products and other essentials.

Related: Coronavirus outbreak around the world (Photos)

Some stores had scenes of “bedlam” and were stripped bare within 30 minutes, while staff were abused over queue lengths and limits on purchases.

There were even reports of fights between shoppers and attacks on workers. And some inconsiderate hoarders crashed early-morning slots reserved for the elderly and vulnerable to visit and grab vital supplies.

a group of people walking on a city street filled with lots of traffic: People queuing outside supermarkets from 6am has become a daily occurrence © Adam Gerrard / Daily Mirror People queuing outside supermarkets from 6am has become a daily occurrence

One social media user said: “I was in a store last night and the shelves were bare. The locusts had descended.”

Posting a picture of full shelves yesterday morning, they added: “Your night shift shelf-stackers are heroes.”

David Williams of shopworkers’ union Usdaw said: “Shopworkers are on the front line. There are incidents of mass scrabbling when stuff goes on to the shelves.

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"People are working out when the lorries arrive at the stores and are waiting for the products to come out.”

Supermarkets and supply chains are struggling to cope with the fallout from the pandemic.

a group of people standing in front of a store: Tensions have flared as shoppers try to get as much as they can © SplashNews.com Tensions have flared as shoppers try to get as much as they can

Some stores are cutting back on their product ranges and moving staff from other duties to get stock on shelves as fast as possible.

Shoppers queued from dawn yesterday across the nation to be first in line when doors opened.

New restrictions on times and quantities of purchases have been brought in to try combat panic buyers © Tom Maddick SWNS New restrictions on times and quantities of purchases have been brought in to try combat panic buyers While supermarkets were overrun, people were urged to use smaller shops, which are often better stocked. Online giant Ocado had to temporarily halt taking orders due to high demand. The firm’s Duncan Tatton-Brown said: “We have had hours with 100-times the normal level of transactions.”

In the Commons, Mr Eustice called for calm and rubbished the idea that supplies are low. He told MPs: “We have significant resilience in our food supply chain in that food manufacturers are used to coping with increases in demand.

"There isn’t a shortage of food.”

But in Slough, Berks, many shelves in a Tesco Extra were emptied in half an hour. It was a similar story at a nearby Sainsbury’s, which reserved the first hour for the elderly – but was swarmed by younger people staff could not stop.

Deborah McIntyre went looking for ingredients to bake a cake for her 50th wedding anniversary but there were no eggs or flour. She got only one item on her list – margarine.

Shops have been reporting shortages of key products © SplashNews.com Shops have been reporting shortages of key products

The 70-year-old said: “This is just crazy. People are panicking and there’s no need. Why can’t they just buy what they need?”

Related: Coronavirus myths busted (Photos)

Kath Blayden, 78, was looking for paracetamol, long-life milk, loo rolls and tinned pineapple.

Staring at the empty painkiller shelf, she said: “I have never seen anything like this. People are being greedy and I think this will only get worse. There’s enough to go around if they weren’t so selfish.”

At Tesco, Marion Koppel, 96, said: “I’m trying to do my normal shopping but people are panic buying so much they are making it impossible.

a parking meter sitting on the side of a building: Coronavirus has seen schools closed and exams cancelled © PA Coronavirus has seen schools closed and exams cancelled “I don’t know what has got into everyone – please just calm down.”

Kathryn Hopkins, 56, from Doncaster said: “Some stores are opening early for pensioners but in our region their free bus pass is not valid until after 9.30am.”

The carer said she had tried to do a shop on Wednesday but failed – despite visiting three stores before 10am.

    a large building with a clock on the side of a road: Eileen's daughter Siobhan thanked the hospital staff © PA Eileen's daughter Siobhan thanked the hospital staff

She said: “It must be a terrible shock to older people who turn up and the shelves are empty. A lot of the basics are nowhere to be seen.”

Retired teacher Lesley Thornton said she nearly wept when she saw a couple in their 80s only manage to get a bag of hotdog buns at a Sainsbury’s in North East London.

The 59-year-old said: “It was bedlam and makes me feel so frustrated. It was so shocking how empty the store was. The whole frozen section was gone.

"But I saw kind gestures too, with people handing over goods they’d got to others who were looking for it.”

But shoppers at a Waitrose in Sandbach, Cheshire, were outraged after a customer piled up a trolley with toilet rolls – and then offered to sell an OAP a pack for £20.

The elderly woman had gone in for a pack normally costing less than £5 but the shelves had been cleared.

A witness said: “She came across this woman with a trolley full of toilet rolls, so she politely asked if she could have one.

“She was astonished when the woman replied certainly she could - but for £20.”

Meanwhile, IKEA will temporarily close all stores from 6pm today to help limit the spread of the virus.

Click or tap here for the latest travel advice for people travelling back to the UK from affected areas, including whether to self-isolate. If you think you have the virus, don't go to the GP or hospital, stay indoors and get advice online. Only call NHS 111 if you cannot cope with your symptoms at home; your condition gets worse; or your symptoms do not get better after seven days. In parts of Wales where 111 isn't available, call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47. In Scotland, anyone with symptoms is advised to self-isolate for seven days. In Northern Ireland, call your GP.

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