SUPERMARKET shelves have been left bare of some products due to issues with staffing and supply chain following "self-isolation" pings, it has been claimed.

Some items have been unavailable in supermarkets due to issues with staff and deliveries as firms see large absences in HGV drivers and wider supply chain staff.

In the North East, some supermarkets have reportedly seen "gaps" in the supply of some products, as freezer sections have been depleted in some cases.

It comes as the Government is today expected to reveal who will be excluded from self-isolation requirements amidst a "pingdemic," as it faces calls to exclude food workers. 

Read more: Heatwave looks set to end as Met Office warns heavy rain is expected

Meanwhile, supermarkets have urged customers not to panic buy as they say they are continuing to receive regular deliveries, despite the constraints.

At around 9am on Thursday, the Lidl store in Pity Me, Durham, had some gaps in the pasta, cakes, toiletries, pet food and bottled beer sections.

However, the Arnison Centre store remained well-stocked with milk, meat, fresh fruit and vegetables and toilet rolls.

Across the road, the large Sainsbury’s store had some gaps in the biscuits aisle and the freezer section was depleted of burgers and sausages.

Again, there were no apparent shortages in the fresh food aisles.

The Northern Echo: Lidl in Pity Me, Durham Picture: GOOGLELidl in Pity Me, Durham Picture: GOOGLE

At a Marks and Spencer food hall also in the Arnison Centre, there were no visible shortages on the shelves.

There was also no sign of panic-buying at any of the outlets, stores were quiet and shoppers seemed calm. No outlets on the site were closed due to staff shortages.

The head of the British Retail Consortium, which previously said retailers are aware of a fall in HGV driver numbers due to "pings," said it was hopeful food and food supply chain workers would be excluded from self-isolation requirements.

Speaking to Sky News, Helen Dickinson said: “Many of the businesses that have been impacted have shared data on their absence rate, those pockets of issues with, the Government.

“(Ministers) are looking at that right now, so our hope is that over the coming hours that they will shift that position, because obviously what none of us want to see is increased disruption over the coming days.

The Northern Echo: Supermarket shelves have been left bareSupermarket shelves have been left bare

While it is likely the gaps being seen are due to issues with deliveries, it is understood that some supermarkets have seen instances of people stocking up.

Supermarkets have since urged customers not to panic buy in response to reports of emptying shelves, saying they are continuing to receive regular deliveries.

The UK’s biggest supermarkets described any shortages as “patchy” across stores and that there is no need for customers to change their shopping habits.

They said any gaps on the shelves were temporary as they awaited deliveries, and were occurring in pockets rather than across supply chains.

The “pingdemic”, the shortage of HGV drivers and the hot weather were all contributing to delivery glitches, grocers this week said, while stressing to consumers that panic buying would create a problem that did not exist.

A Co-op spokesman said: “We are sorry that we are running low on some products. Like many retailers, we are impacted by some patchy disruption to our deliveries and store operations but we are working closely with our suppliers to get re-stocked quickly.”

A Sainsbury’s spokeswoman said: “We are working hard to ensure customers can find what they need.

“While we might not always have the exact product a customer is looking for in every store, large quantities of products are being delivered to stores daily and our colleagues are focused on getting them on to the shelves as quickly as they can.”

Iceland managing director Richard Walker has said staff absence rates are now double the usual number, with the figure rising 50 percent “week on week” due to people being told to self-isolate by the NHS app.

Mr Walker said: “We’ve now got over 1,000 staff off, who’ve been pinged. That’s double the normal rates, and it’s rising at 50% week on week.

“Our big concern is that we’ve kept all of our shops open throughout the pandemic, but now we have had to close one or two shops and reduce hours in others.

“But that could get a lot worse a lot quicker, unless the country’s system is sorted out.”

Mr Walker urged shoppers not to panic buy, saying: “There is certainly no problem with supply of stock.

“Panic-buying is only an option for those who can afford it and it often means that others go without.”


Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also follow our dedicated County Durham Facebook page for all the latest in the area by clicking here.

For all the top news updates from right across the region straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on or contact 01325 505054