Panic buying is plaguing supermarkets once again as customers prepare for the second national lockdown in the UK. Supermarket shelves across the UK have been emptied of tinned goods, dried pasta and loo rolls despite reassurances of constant stocks and supply of products. The four-week shutdown which begins on Thursday and runs until December 2 have Britons hunkering down in a desperate frenzy of bulk-buying household essentials.

Supermarkets and citizens were all given advanced warning of a national lockdown. As such, big chains such as Tesco and Asda have urged customers to maintain responsible shopping while assuring shoppers that such essential items will not run out.

Sainsbury said it is not ruling out buying restrictions later on, while Tesco said they will be introducing buying limits but reminded customers to shop as normal. According to a Tesco spokesperson, they have imposed a bulk-buy limit on a small number of items to ensure that everyone can keep buying what they need.

However, even with such reassurances, the Daily Mail showed photos of hundreds of shoppers lining up and waiting outside Costcos in Manchester, Southampton and Sudbury, as well as Poundland in Hertfordshire. Aisles were stripped bare of loo rolls and dried pasta with Halloween treats nearly gone from the shelves as well.

Customers also flooded online supermarket shopping apps. Ocado Delivery reported that they have been on high demand with bookings selling out more than usual.

Non-essential gift items are not the only things flying off the shelves as Waitrose announced a 280 percent rise in pre-prepped Christmas dinners and 180 percent rise in turkeys that have been ordered.

The online supermarket is now offering 190,000 delivery slots each week with 107,000 slots already booked for 20th to 24th of December.

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said that England might spend Christmas in full lockdown if the four-week shutdown this month does not bring down the transmission rates in the country. When asked if the national lockdown could be extended, the Minister was quick to give a nod on this speculation.

While this year may not be the usual Christmas shopping experience for everyone, the alternative click and collect remains open. Businesses can continue to sell holiday goods and products via click and collect as long as their stores are covid-secure for the pick up.

Empty London supermarket
Near empty shelves on the toilet paper aisle in a supermarket in London after stockpiling by consumers. Photo: AFP / Justin TALLIS