Boris Johnson urges Brits to stay calm as supermarket shelves empty amid coronavirus fears after first British death


BORIS Johnson yesterday urged Brits not to panic-buy food and supplies as the number of coronavirus cases soared to 116 and patients with the bug were urged to stay at home.

The PM implored shoppers not to strip supermarkets bare, promising they would not go hungry in the crisis, which has claimed its first UK death.

Boris Johnson has urged Brits not to strip supermarkets bare as as the number of coronavirus cases soared with the first UK death confirmed
The PM implored shoppers not to panic-buy as many shelves have already been stripped

He reassured the nation that he will “keep the country fed” no matter how bad it gets.

Speaking on ITV’s This Morning, he also said: “We will make sure that we give UK businesses the support that it needs.”

Supermarket shelves across the country have been emptied by those stocking up on hand gels, toilet paper and tinned food.

Shortages of hand soap, disinfectants, baby wipes and cupboard staples such as rice and pasta have been seen in Tesco, Sainsbury’s Asda and Morrisons stores.

Manufacturers have ramped up production in response and are working at full capacity to make sure shelves can be restocked. Supermarkets have also noticed more and larger home delivery orders.

Ocado has already warned customers they face delays of up to three days for deliveries amid “exceptionally high demand”. Boots and Superdrug have limited the number of hand sanitisers to two a customer. Waitrose has also put a cap on the number of cleaning products a customer can order at one time.

Boris reassured the nation that he will ‘keep the country fed’ no matter how bad it gets

Stores such as Superdrug and Boots have limited the number of hand sanitisers to two per customer
Supermarkets such as this Sainsbury’s store in Weymouth have sold out of hand sanitiser gels


Mr Johnson spoke out against panic-buying as those with symptoms of the virus were urged not to go to hospital and to manage their sickness at home.
Meanwhile, the nation’s top doctor warned the bug survived on public transport for three days.

Professor Chris Whitty, England’s Chief Medical Officer, said droplets of the infection could remain on hard surfaces, such as bus and train hand rails, for up to 72 hours.

However, he said they would be “largely gone” within 48 hours in most cases. He also warned half of all UK infections would probably happen during a three-week window, potentially overwhelming the NHS.

Prof Whitty said there was now a “slim to zero” chance of stopping a global pandemic. Officials were moving their handling of the crisis from “containment” to “delay” as UK infections rose by 29 overnight.

It could see confirmed victims told to remain at home if they felt well enough, rather than quarantined in hospital. Plans now being considered in the event of an escalation of the outbreak include using medical students to treat the sick.

Professor Chris Whitty, warned the virus can survive up to three days on public transport as droplets of the infection remain on hand rails and hard surfaces

It’s also been warned that half of all UK infections would probably happen during a three-week window, potentially overwhelming the NHS

The nation’s top doctor said the chances of stopping a global pandemic are ‘slim to zero’, as the virus has now reached 80 nations with around 95,000 cases

Older and vulnerable people will be among the first to be told to avoid busy paces and self-isolate, to limit the impact of the virus. Health bosses also want recovered coronavirus victims to take shopping to OAPs and offer other help, as they are less likely to spread the bug.

Prof Whitty told the Commons Health Committee, it would be “wholly unrealistic” to expect the NHS to escape unscathed.

He said: “If you model the epidemic, we will get 50 per cent of all the cases over a three-week period and 95 per cent of the cases over a nine-week period.”

“If all of those were spaced out on the NHS over two or three years, that would be easily manageable but it’s the fact they are so heavily concentrated. If this goes to the top end of the range, there will be a period where the NHS has huge pressure on it.”

Mr Johnson also admitted he was worried about his own elderly parents. Asked if he had prepared his dad Stanley, 79, the PM said: “He’s usually in a state of readiness for anything.”

But he added: “We’re all worried. I’m thinking about both of my parents. But what SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) will be thinking about today, is what we can do to help those elderly and vulnerable groups.”

The NHS will be facing huge pressure and it would be ‘wholly unrealistic’ to believe it will come out of this crisis without being damaged

In other developments, England’s Six Nations rugby match against Italy on March 14 in Rome has been postponed. Italy’s death toll yesterday climbed to 148, and its confirmed cases to 3,858.

Premier League clubs could play behind closed doors if the Government orders it. Everton’s chief finance officer Sasha Ryazantsev said it was “quite likely” matches in England would be played without fans in the coming weeks.

HSBC confirmed an employee at its Canary Wharf offices in London — where the number of cases hit 25 — has been diagnosed with it and a deep-clean was under way.

The disease has reached its most southern point in Britain, with a case confirmed in Cornwall. Birmingham and Staffordshire have reported their first infections, while two patients in Wigan and another at Sussex University near Brighton have also been infected.

Heathrow airport staff were rocked by their own scare after an infected passenger visited the duty free shops. The traveller flew out from Terminal 3 last Thursday and was found to have since been diagnosed. It is not clear which country the passenger was flying to.

Starbucks said it was “pausing the use of personal cups” because of coronavirus fears. Businesses have been promised extra support in nest week’s Budget to help cope with the outbreak.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there was a “range of options”. But he played down the prospect of widespread school closures or the cancellation of major events. He said it would “not have a clinical benefit at this stage but it would impose huge social and economic costs”.

The bug has now reached 80 nations, with more than 95,000 cases and 3,252 deaths globally. ITV also revealed travel companies were no longer advertising due to the outbreak.

The Grand Princess cruise ship, with about 2,500 passengers and 1,000 crew, is being held off the coast of California after a former passenger died from Covid-19.

Italy’s Serie A football matches will resume this weekend after a fortnight of postponements but without fans.