Published: 11:53, 22 March 2020
| Updated: 11:54, 22 March 2020
Sainsbury's has offered all NHS and social care staff a dedicated shopping slot six days of the week.
The supermarket giant has rolled out the gesture to tireless healthcare workers as they endure long hours during the coronavirus outbreak and struggle to pick up essentials as panic buyers strip shelves bare.
It means from Monday to Saturday they will have an allocated half-hour slot between 7.30am and 8am.
Elderly and vulnerable people - who were allowed to shop first in Sainbury's earlier this week - have also been allocated a 'golden hour' between 8am and 9am on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Both groups had originally been given the same one-hour slot on the same days, but supermarket bosses amended the times after concerns were raised about the vulnerable and healthcare workers shopping together.
They said this morning: "Many of you have written to us in the past 24 hours to tell us that you like the idea of priority shopping for NHS workers and for the elderly and disabled customers, but that these should be at different times.
"From Monday, March 23, NHS and social care workers will be able to shop in our supermarkets from 7.30am to 8am, Monday to Saturday, before stores open.
"Anyone with an NHS ID will be able to shop at this time.
"We're delighted to be able to offer priority shopping to all the hard-working NHS staff across the country who are working so hard to keep us all safe and well.
"In addition to this, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, all our supermarkets will dedicate 8am to 9am to serving elderly customers, disabled customers and carers.
"We are also providing priority online delivery slots for the elderly, disabled and vulnerable customers."
Workers will need to show an ID pass on their visit to stores, which will open early at 7.30am.
Opening times at all stores has been consolidated to 8am-8pm to allow shelves to be restocked.
Sainsbury's chief executive Michael Coupe has also urged customers to keep their distance from shop staff.
"To keep our colleagues safe, I need to ask again for your help," he said.
"Please do your best to stand one metre away from colleagues in our stores where you can. And we would prefer you to pay with card rather than cash at our tills. Please also treat our colleagues and other customers with kindness and respect.
"These are unprecedented circumstances and our colleagues are being asked to come to work every day while so many others are being asked to stay at home. We all need them to keep coming to work to feed the nation – a small thank you goes a really long way.
"I hope you will join us in looking out for each other and the communities that we serve."
Tesco and M&S were the first big supermarkets to offer NHS workers dedicated shopping hours.