Coronavirus: UK supermarket shopping rules to know

10 guidelines to follow when food shopping during lockdown

Sophie Hamilton

As the coronavirus lockdown becomes the country's new norm, most people are only stepping out for daily exercise and supermarket shopping trips. Doing the weekly food shop can be a nerving experience with many customers donning face masks and gloves, but thankfully the major supermarkets have put rules in place for public safety in their stores. Read the list below for current guidelines on staying safe whilst shopping…

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Don't shop if you feel unwell

It may sound obvious, but if you have any flu symptoms, it's best to stay home in case you have coronavirus and could pass it on to others at the shop. Asda says on its website: "If you have any of the following symptoms, please do not enter the store: Continuous cough; High temperature; Shortness of breath."

Stick to social distancing markings

All the major supermarkets such as Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda, Lidl and Aldi have introduced two metre marking to enable the public to social distance while queuing to enter the store and pay for food. It's hugely important to observe these to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Follow directional floor markings

Some supermarkets such as Tesco have introduced directional floor markings and new signs to create a safe flow of movement around the store. It's important to follow these signs to maintain social distancing. Tesco has also created separate entrances and exits to some of its stores for further distancing measures.


Perspex screens have now been introduced at checkouts

Keep your distance from staff

The two-metre social distancing rule applies to ourselves and the store's staff too, so ensure you maintain the correct spacing between shop workers to protect both your and their health.

Observe shopping hours for most vulnerable

Many stores now have specific shopping hours for only the most vulnerable people in society to shop. Tesco prioritises the elderly and most vulnerable for one hour between 9-10am on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Sainsbury's has set aside 8-9am every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for their elderly and disabled customers and their carers. 

MORE: Online food delivery services available over lockdown: From Tesco and Asda to Aldi and Sainsburys

There are set hours for NHS workers

Several supermarkets have also dedicated specific hours to NHS and care workers. At Asda, it's every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8am to 9am in larger stores, while Sainsbury's offer an extra half an hour before opening Monday to Saturday. Aldi are opening their stores half an hour early on Sundays for NHS, Police and Fire Service workers. Valid professional ID is needed in all cases.

Shop alone if you can

Supermarkets are encouraging people to shop by themselves rather than as a couple or with their children. The fewer people in the shop the better to reduce the risk of contracting the virus.


Stores are advising people to pay with card

Pick up only what you want to buy

Stores are asking customers only to touch groceries they intend to buy. Coronavirus is spread through touch and can survive on cardboard for 24 hrs and up to 72hrs on plastic and steel.

MORE: Coronavirus: What to do with your shopping when you get home

Some stores have a limit on items per customer

To prevent stockpiling, some supermarkets still have a limit on certain products. Asda's website says: "To ensure there is enough for everyone, we will occasionally place purchase limits on certain products that are in high demand." Tesco has set a limit of 80 products per online order and for in-store sales, states, "As our stock levels are starting to return to normal, we’re removing purchase limits(previously three per item) on most of our products. On some products such as toilet roll, alcohol, pasta, and hand sanitisers, we’ve kept these limits until we’re fully stocked up again."

At Sainsbury's, customers can buy a maximum of three of any grocery product and a maximum of two on the most popular products including toilet paper, soap and UHT milk. Their website says: "We have started to remove some limits on the number of certain non-essential products you can buy. Limits will remain in place on the most popular items which include UHT milk, pasta and tinned tomatoes."

Pay with a contactless card if possible

Stores such as Sainsbury's, Asda and Aldi are now asking customers to help prevent the spread of coronavirus by paying with card or using apps such as SmartShop, Apple Pay or Android Pay on their own devices. Cash payments are restricted to self-service tills at many shops.