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Coronavirus Kent: Sainsbury's stores open for the over 70s and vulnerable people only for first hour

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Huge queues built up outside supermarkets across Kent this morning when the first hour was reserved for the over 70s and vulnerable people.

Customers at Sainsbury's in Sittingbourne

Sainsbury's customers responded to the idea in great numbers after shelves were being stripped in response to the coronavirus.

There were about 200 people queuing outside the Sittingbourne branch waiting for it to open at 7am.

Among them was Mike Grantham, 83, who had finished his shop by just after 7.10am. "I was about 10th in the queue and I understood that coming at this time they would have stock - but I got the last pack of toilet roll.

"Even the staff said they hadn't been able to get any. I can't understand it. Some idiot somewhere in the world decided toilet rolls are a must. It does not give you diarrhoea, this thing.

"If everyone bought the normal amount, we'd be alright."

Mike Grantham, 83, who came out of Sainsbury's 10 minutes after it opened with the last of the toilet roll
Mike Grantham, 83, who came out of Sainsbury's 10 minutes after it opened with the last of the toilet roll

Others such as Miriam and Chris Riddles, of Bay View, on Sheppey, left empty handed.

"We are mortified," said Miriam, who is 75. "We left at 6.30am to get here and found everyone queuing up going around the whole building.

"The lady in charge said they were not even well stocked, so we are going home."

Sainsbury's chief executive Mike Coupe said setting aside an hour for older and vulnerable people was an idea that had come from customers.

"I hope that you can respect this decision and will work with us as we try our best to help those that need it the most," he added.

Miriam and Chris Riddles of Bay View, Sheppey, left Sainsbury's empty-handed (31943182)
Miriam and Chris Riddles of Bay View, Sheppey, left Sainsbury's empty-handed (31943182)

Shoppers were being restricted to a limit of two items per product.

Others in the queue were concerned they might have to show ID.

Bernard Poultney, of School Lane, Iwade, said: "I think it's a good thing they are doing but they should have said if you have to bring proof."

Bernard Poultney, 70, of School Lane, Iwade, was among those in the queue at Sainsbury's in Sittingbourne
Bernard Poultney, 70, of School Lane, Iwade, was among those in the queue at Sainsbury's in Sittingbourne

Over in Ashford reader Simon Higgins took the below photo at 5.50am.

Shop bosses have started rationing and, as one trade union put it, "there is enough for everyone".

Over in Maidstone Patrick Horgan, 69, said the shelves were mostly empty: "I didn't manage to get everything I needed. I wanted flour and they didn't have any at all and no bars of soap," he said, but added: "It gives us a little bit more of a chance this hour so I think it's a good idea."

Queues outside Sainsbury's in Maidstone
Queues outside Sainsbury's in Maidstone
Clive Bradburn
Clive Bradburn

Clive Bradburn, 73, said: "I'm not just buying for me, I'm buying for my 95-year-old mother who can not get out the house so being over 70 myself that's a double whammy.

"I've bought more than I would normally get but I'm certainly not stockpiling.

"I got here dead on 7am and we were queuing round the car park.

"It's a good idea this hour, I hope they'll continue to do it, maybe the novelty will wear off and there will be fewer people."

The queue at 5.50am outside Sainsbury's in Ashford. Picture: Simon Higgins
The queue at 5.50am outside Sainsbury's in Ashford. Picture: Simon Higgins

Sonya Walsh, 71, didn't get everything she needed and said the queues to pay were horrendous.

"There was no broccoli or cauliflower but I did manage to get most of what I wanted so I'm happy," she revealed, adding: "I didn't need toilet roll but it did look like the shelves were empty.

"I wanted to buy flour for cake making but they didn't have any. It's an excellent idea this reserved hour, even if you can't get everything."

Sonya Walsh
Sonya Walsh

Store manager Mani Powar said staff are constantly getting deliveries in and are doing all they can to make sure people get what they need.

He added: "This morning was a huge success."

Colin Wallsgrove, 83, said: "I was very disappointed the shelves were empty. I came for bread flour but there was no flour at all. I queued from 6.45am this morning."

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