// Grocers are trying to keep up with a surge in demand for online orders
// Ocado’s website and app crashed on Friday
// Customers are trying to avoid a trip to the shops due to the coronavirus outbreak
UK supermarkets are struggling to cope with the rapid increase in online orders, prompted by the coronavirus outbreak.
Online grocer Ocado saw its website and app crashing several times on Friday as shoppers scurried to shop online in a bid to self-isolate.
Since the government implemented new measures to protect against the coronavirus, grocers have been experiencing a barrage of online orders from shoppers trying to avoid a trip to the shops.
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In some locations, customers who were able to get on to the Ocado website could not find an available delivery slot for a week.
“Due to exceptionally high demand, our app is experiencing some intermittent technical issues,” an Ocado spokesperson said.
“We apologise for any inconvenience caused by this and thank our customers for their support.”
Other supermarkets have no slots for several days as fears of the virus has increased demand for online grocery shopping.
Meanwhile, Ocado has informed its shoppers that its staff will no longer be taking goods into homes or taking back plastic bags as part of new security measures.
Moreover, the government is understood to be considering waiving the plastic bag tax, of 5p on single use bags, in order to facilitate doorstep deliveries with less risk of contamination for drivers and shoppers.
It is also considering extending the number of hours drivers can legally work.
Suppliers and retailers have said they are struggling to keep up with sudden demand that is on a par with Easter or Christmas.
Big 4 grocer Morrisons said it will speed up payments to its smallest suppliers to help them with cash flow during the coronavirus outbreak.
From next week, suppliers who sell less than £1 million of goods a year to Morrisons will receive payments within 48 hours rather than the usual two-week window.
Morrisons said it would be operating the new system until at least the end of May.
“We are Britain’s biggest single foodmaker and we want to be there for the smaller foodmakers, farmers and businesses that supply Morrisons,” Morrisons chief executive David Potts said.
We’re a British family business and we will be doing our best to support them through this challenging period.”
Environment secretary George Eustice said: “These measures will support our farmers and food producers in their vital work of feeding the nation.
“We already have a highly resilient food supply chain in this country and I am continuing to work closely with Morrisons and other retailers on their response to coronavirus.
“The government has pledged £30 billion in this year’s budget for those affected and we’ve been clear that we will do whatever it takes to support people and businesses.”