Thousands of people deemed particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus have struggled to book a home birth despite being told they have become a priority.
However, figures obtained by The Telegraph show that British supermarkets are able to deliver to at least 2.2 million households per week – a number far higher than the 1.5 million listed on the government’s list for the most vulnerable.
Supermarkets begged customers to come into the store to free up home delivery slots for this group, as many struggled.
A man with some form of blood cancer was forced to make 200 phone calls before he finally got a place. Charities urged supermarkets to work quickly to prioritize those most at risk for coronavirus, warning that the decision to go to a supermarket could be fatal.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC), the supermarket trading body, said buyers should pay attention to each other and determine if they can help others with their purchases. Tesco and Iceland have previously asked “healthy” people to shop in stores whenever possible.
Andrew Opie of BRC said: “Although [supermarkets] increase the ability to respond to large increases in demand and prioritize delivery to these groups where possible, many also encourage those who are able to shop in stores to do so.
The government has compiled a list of 1.5 million people who have been asked to isolate themselves for 12 weeks, which has been passed on to supermarkets to help them ensure their home delivery. Supermarkets have significantly increased their delivery capacity in recent weeks as they rush to meet this demand.
Tesco can now deliver to just over 800,000 homes per week, an increase of 145,000 in the past few weeks. Asda has 700,000 locations, an increase of 250,000, while Sainsbury’s has increased its capacity from 100,000 to 472,000. Ocado has 250,000 delivery slots per week, but has been forced to stop serving new customers.
Waitrose would not give an overall figure, but said that next week it would have increased its capacity by 50%, with 25% of the slots reserved for vulnerable customers.
However, many vulnerable people have always reported difficulties in giving birth. Earlier this week, The Telegraph reported on the case of Ally Boyle, 48, who suffers from blood cancer and who spent days and hundreds of phone calls trying to contact Sainsbury’s.
His order was finally accelerated after several hours of waiting. Gemma Peters, managing director of the charity’s Blood Cancer UK, said that while the supermarkets have risen to the challenge, people “were forced to choose between being hungry and making a trip to the supermarket that could be fatal.” if they came to get the coronavirus over there. “
In addition to home delivery, supermarkets are also introducing new measures to help vulnerable people. Morrisons hired 500 people in charity stores, which are currently closed, to help people shop and check out.
Waitrose has set up a “volunteer purchase card” which can be purchased by vulnerable people and given to helpers who do their shopping for them.
Tesco has made 75,000 delivery slots immediately available to people on the government list.