Grocery stores may have to take drastic measures.
Former Tesco supply chain director Bruno Monteyne warns that a large scale outbreak of coronavirus in the UK could lead to “food riots,” requiring the army to be used to guard supermarkets.
Monteyne said that supermarkets would have to resort to drastic measures and revert to “feed the nation status” under a worse case scenario.
He also cautioned that grocery stores would have trouble stocking shelves and delivering goods if their employees decided to self-isolate.
“Yes, it will be chaotic (and expect pictures of empty shelves),” wrote Mr Monteyne, “but the industry will reduce complexity to keep the country fed.”
He said that the army may need to be drafted in to guard stores and prevent disorder.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he was “confident” food supplies would not run out and that there was “absolutely no need” to panic-buy.
Hancock also claimed that supermarkets could deliver food to coronavirus patients who had self-isolated, although this claim was immediately put in doubt by one supermarket executive, who said he was “baffled” by the suggestion.
“Matt Hancock has totally made up what he said about working with supermarkets. We haven’t heard anything from government directly,” the executive said, adding, “I’m not sure the government can guarantee all food supply in all instances.”
A source at another supermarket told the BBC that there had been no detailed planning involving government departments about “ensuring uninterrupted food supplies.”
Panic buying continued across the UK today, with supermarket shelves of goods like hand sanitizer, toilet paper and medicine.
The number of coronavirus cases in the UK has now reached 163, with two deaths.