A MAN who tried to buy 20 tins of peaches and 20 cartons of UHT milk at New Milton Tesco reportedly erupted in fury after staff told him they were rationed due to coronavirus, exclaiming: “I buy this amount every week!”
He was one of hundreds of shoppers who have been stripping bare the supermarkets in the town and in Lymington of basic provisions including toilet rolls, tinned tomatoes, tuna, pasta and baked beans.
Panic-buying has become so widespread in the wake of fears the virus will cause many to self-isolate that stores are now restricting sales of some goods to only five per customer.
Latest figures from Public Health England say there have been 10 confirmed cases in Hampshire and three in the BCP Council area.
A woman who has a relative who works at Tesco in New Milton said the customer with the peaches and UHT milk turned angrily on a cashier when they told him they could not sell him all the goods he wanted.
She said: “He became very irate and claimed it was just his usual weekly shop, which is obviously nonsense as he would not be able to get into his house – it would be full of cans of peaches and cartons of milk.
“Most shoppers are accepting the rationing, but others are getting very angry and taking it out on staff.”
When the A&T visited Tesco, Lidl and Morrison in New Milton and Waitrose in Lymington we found empty shelves and irate shoppers.
At Waitrose one woman said she had been shouted at in the public toilet there for using too much toilet paper.
She said: “A lady in the next cubicle started shouting at me. When I came out, she was waiting for me by the sink and said: ‘Why did you need to use all that paper!’
“I was so embarrassed. It was very unnecessary, I’m sure Waitrose have enough to cope.”
A woman in the café was complaining to her friend that her neighbours had “just been out to buy 90 packs of toilet paper and there is only her and husband”.
Shoppers spoken to by the A&T said they thought the panic buying was “complete madness” and people were “behaving like idiots”.
Jane Sedgewick (80), from Bashley, had just been to Tesco in New Milton. She said: “I only got what I wanted and needed. I think people are going a bit over the top.
“It’s not really fair on everyone else if just a few are stockpiling stuff. At the moment I don’t think you need to.”
Mary Johnston, from New Milton, said she was not buying to excess either, saying: “I think it is ridiculous. I absolutely am not doing it. Buying hand gel is a good idea but buying lots of other stuff for no reason is not. I think a lot of people are doing it because everyone else is.”
Mum and daughter Susan Thompson and Rebecca Barrett, who were also shopping at Tesco, said they were not panic-buying.
Mrs Thompson, from New Milton, said: “We are waiting to see what happens in the next few weeks. I don’t see the point of stockpiling now. There is still plenty of stuff on the shelves, just not toilet rolls.”
Rebecca, from Pennington, said she could understand the elderly and those with health issues over-buying goods, saying: “I think they have a reason to as they may find themselves having to self-isolate.
“I think it does depend on your circumstances as to whether you should buy stuff in now. But I don’t think perfectly healthy people should be doing it.”
At Waitrose one staff member found himself accosted by customers as he tried to put out a new arrival of toilet rolls on the bare shelves.
One woman said: “It’s completely mad. The poor bloke is surrounded by people waiting to pounce on the packets. As he goes to put one on the shelf it gets snatched away.
“I think people have completely lost their senses. It’s not fair on other people to stockpile stuff. I’m glad goods are being rationed, people are being very selfish.”
In Asda and Lidl in Totton toilet roll stocks had been depleted, while handwash, dried pasta and paracetamol supplies were lower than usual.
One shopper said: “I have been to three shops today and none of them had any toilet roll. I can drive, so it’s not too bad, but I feel for the elderly who can’t get out much or can only go to their local shop. It’s ridiculous.”
On Facebook, local resident Annette Dunham wrote: “Shame on you who have brought enough loo roll to last you the next three years. There was an elderly lady in tears in Asda this morning as she didn’t have any toilet roll at home and there’s none on the shelves.”
The government has urged people not to panic-buy, saying supermarket supply chains are not being affected by the virus.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the public: “Behave responsibly and think about others.”
Public Health England has also said those who self-isolate do not have to worry about running out of food.
It said that in those circumstances family, friends and neighbours could shop for the person affected and leave it in a safe place outside their home for them to collect.
This week the government announced that curfews on drivers delivering to shops during the night have been lifted so they can be restocked.
Supermarkets say they have enough in their warehouses to keep their stores stocked for months.
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