The picture that sums up Britons' struggle to buy online groceries during the coronavirus crisis

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer
Twitter user Dominic Wakeford showed how long it was taking to order shopping online. (Twitter/@domwakeford)

With Britons being urged to stay at home to stop the spread of coronavirus, many people are ordering groceries online.

However, as demand for food delivery has surge, the waiting time to order has increased with it.

Twitter user Dominic Wakeford summed up the experience by posting a picture of his waiting time with online grocery retailer Ocado – which stood at “about two hours”.

The screenshot of his virtual queue also showed that he was in position 4,636 of 10,700 people all waiting to order.

Others also shared their experiences of trying to order from online grocery shopping websites as they were overloaded by demand.

As a result of the massive demand, Ocado has announced it is no longer taking new customers.

The company said in a statement it was “working hard to increase our delivery capacity”.

Supermarkets have seen a huge surge in demand for delivery services – no slots are available until next month for both Tesco and Waitrose in some parts of the South East.

Meanwhile, Sainsbury’s chief executive Mike Coupe has said all stores will be open only to the elderly and vulnerable for the first hour of trading on Thursday, but they will also open for an hour longer so other shoppers do not miss out.

Latest coronavirus news, updates and advice

Live: Follow all the latest updates from the UK and around the world

Fact-checker: The number of Covid-19 cases in your local area

Explained: Symptoms, latest advice and how it compares to the flu

Coupe added that as of Thursday, Sainsbury's will be closing its cafes and its meat, fish and pizza counters to free up freight capacity for essential products.

Customers will also only be able to buy a maximum of three of any grocery product and a maximum of two on the most popular items such as toilet roll, soap and UHT milk from Wednesday onward.

Countries with confirmed cases of coronavirus. (PA)

Iceland outlets across the country have also introduced reserved time slots to give the vulnerable and the elderly a chance to shop in store.

Tesco has also brought in similar purchasing restrictions to curb panic-buying, particularly on antibacterial wipes, dried pasta and toilet roll.

It was forced to take its mobile app offline temporarily due to high demand on Tuesday, and announced it would be reducing the hours of all of its 24-hour stores to 6am to 10pm.

A lady looking at empty shelves in a Sainsbury's store in London. (PA)
A man with a shopping trolley walking past empty shelves in a Sainsbury's store in London. (PA)

Elsewhere, Morrisons announced on Tuesday it is creating 3,500 jobs to meet surging demand for its home delivery service.

The chain said it would be recruiting 2,500 pickers and drivers and hiring about 1,000 people to work in distribution centres.

It is also planning a new call centre for those without access to online shopping, and is launching of a new range of simple-to-order food parcels on next Monday.

The surge in delivery demand came as transport secretary Grant Shapps authorised a temporary relaxation, until 16 April, of the drivers' hours rules to help deliver goods to stores across the country.

A Department for Transport statement said the relaxation applies only to drivers supplying food and "essential products to supermarkets”.

it added: "This includes the movement of such goods from importers, manufactures and suppliers to distribution centres. It does not apply to drivers undertaking deliveries directly to consumers.”