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The most vulnerable people are missing out in panic-buying spree | Letters | World news

You report that the environment secretary, George Eustice, has been holding daily phone calls with supermarket chief executives to ensure that supply chains suffer minimal disruption (Supermarkets: Retailers adopt crisis plans, 17 March), quoting a Defra spokesman as saying: “Retailers are continuing to monitor their supply chains and taking all the necessary steps to ensure consumers have the food and supplies they need.”

Government and retail sources keep saying there is no need for panic-buying, and that if we all only buy what we need then there is enough for everyone. Some retailers are introducing limits on items in high demand, including soaps and sanitisers, cleaning products and toilet paper.

But this is clearly not working. We regularly shop with Ocado, an online warehousing and delivery service with no retail stores, which is thus in a strong position to manage and ration supplies equitably.

We placed our normal order on 7 March for delivery this Tuesday, and included our usual small pack of toilet paper. This was still included and available when the order was updated on Sunday. On Tuesday the loo paper was not delivered, and no alternative brand or product was substituted. We had virtually no warning, and no explanation.

We’re in our 70s and in no position to join the queues and fights in supermarkets. We do not store large quantities of goods. What does Mr Eustice suggest we do?
Paul Gelling and Kate Thornton
Prenton, Wirral

I am an 80-year-old with mobility problems, and I care for a husband with serious vulnerabilities. I’ve already reduced my social contacts to protect him. Soon, we’re told, we’ll be asked to self-isolate. Then we’re more likely to expire for lack of food and supplies than from Covid-19. On Monday our local Sainsbury’s online delivery, on which we already rely, offered no delivery slots for the next three weeks, and no click-and-collect slots for the same period at Southampton’s two largest stores.

I’d like to believe that the government’s announcement that we won’t be asked to self-isolate just yet is because they’re planning for well-organised local food-delivery systems to come into force later. But as I listen to their protestations about efficient food supplies, and working hand in glove with supermarkets, I can’t. I’m an old grandmother, so I learned to suck eggs some decades ago.
Jane Freeland
Shirley, Southampton

My wife and I live in a village and do not drive, by choice. We order our food and household items online, which is more environmentally sustainable – one van trip for many households, bringing lots at a time. Ordering 36 loo rolls and 5kg of pasta or rice is normal for us.

We can’t do that now, because of the panic; and because we can’t, we are ordering quantities of items that we normally wouldn’t, not able to care whether it’s organic or sustainable. Just like everyone else, we don’t want to be the last idiot in the aisle, with nothing left to buy, when being virtuous leaves you with nothing. It is wrong, but it is not crazy.

We are in contact with our soon-to-be-quarantined loved ones and several elderly neighbours, and are offering to share what we have, but I do feel that shops themselves should do more to restrict panic-buying. We are in a situation where the simple rules of demand and supply need to be subjugated to societal need. Come on, corporate guys, don’t force parliament yet again to make bad laws with unintended consequences. And keep some loo roll for isolated old people.
Victor Launert
Matlock Bath, Derbyshire

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