Coronavirus: UK supermarkets adding 300,000 delivery slots after complaints

Supermarkets are adding 300,000 delivery slots after vulnerable Britons complained that they were unable to book one while shielding at home during the coronavirus lockdown.

There were 2.1million slots at the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown and the figure was increased to 2.6million as demand soared.

Environment Secretary George Eustice confirmed it is now increasing to 2.9million but admitted it will still “not be enough to meet all of the demand”.

Speaking at Downing Street’s briefing on Sunday afternoon, he also said furloughed workers will be encouraged to take on a second job as fruit pickers to ease a shortage during the harvest in June.

Mr Eustice made the announcement after telling the nation that the UK’s death toll had increased to 20,732 after 413 more fatalities.

He said some 152,840 people have tested positive for the new strain of coronavirus – an increase of 4,463 cases since the day before.

a person standing in front of a box: The Government says 300,000 delivery slots will be added to meet demand© Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images The Government says 300,000 delivery slots will be added to meet demandMr Eustice also said 669,850 tests had been carried out so far during the outbreak, including 29,058 alone on Saturday.

He said 15,953 people are currently in hospital with Covid-19, down from 16,411 on Saturday.

The Cabinet minister added: “And sadly, of those hospitalised with the virus, 20,732 have now died, and that is an increase of 413 fatalities since yesterday.

“We express our deepest condolences to the families and friends of these victims.”

George Eustice holding a sign: Environment Secretary George Eustice speaks to reporters during the briefing© PA Environment Secretary George Eustice speaks to reporters during the briefingMr Eustice said it is too soon for the Government to look at easing the restrictions of the lockdown, which is nearing its sixth week.

While announce more delivery slots, he said staffing levels had increased in supermarkets during the past three weeks.

He added: “The food supply chain has also seen a significant reduction in staff absence over recent weeks, as staff who had been self-isolating through suspected coronavirus have returned to work.

“Absence levels are down from a peak of typically 20% in food businesses three weeks ago, to less than 10% at the end of last week, and, in some cases, individual companies reporting absences as low as 6%.”

Meanwhile, a Labour minister has questioned how many lives a quicker response to the coronavirus pandemic could have saved.

Shadow minister for mental health, and A&E worker Dr Rosena Allin-Khan said the Government chose to enter lockdown “too late” and that global advice on self-isolation was not followed.

Dr Allin-Khan added that PPE was not delivered to the front line when it was needed and said mass testing and contact tracing should have been rolled out.

She told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme: “I understand that this is a global pandemic.

“It would have been impossible to save all of the lives that we’ve lost, but we did enter into lockdown too late.

“We did not deliver PPE to the front line when it was needed, we did not follow global advice on self-isolation, and we haven’t rolled out mass testing and contact tracing.”

At the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing earlier, Scotland Health Secretary Jeane Freeman urged some caution on the latest daily death figures, stressing deaths registered at the weekend tend to be relatively low.

She said more than 22,000 students and former NHS and care workers have volunteered join or return to the health and care workforce, since an appeal was launched four weeks ago.

A number of these volunteers have been placed with NHS boards and pre-employment checks are being carried out for more than 3,000 more.

Ms Freeman said 150 people have been placed into the care sector and a further 200 are available.

She said not everyone who applied to help will be needed immediately but urged them to “bear with us”, saying “such a large number of volunteers really matters and it provides us with important flexibility”.


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