Tesco, the UK’s largest grocer, has sought to reassure consumers that its food supply pipeline is robust despite reports of coronavirus-linked panic-buying.

Speaking to BBC radio, Tesco chairman John Allan said that although it has recently seen heavy buying of certain products, it was not at a level that threatened the retailer’s supply chain.

“We, and I’m sure our competitors, are re-filling our supply chains as rapidly as ever we can,” he said.

Allan said it was unlikely Tesco, which has a 27.2% UK grocery market share, would experience anything more than “very short term, temporary” shortages of certain products.

However, reports of empty shelves in UK supermarkets persist.

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By GlobalData

News agency Reuters reported today (13 March) that an increasing number of supermarket shelves in London were empty on Friday as people rushed to buy pasta, toilet paper, flour and frozen food after the government ordered people that might potentially have coronavirus to isolate themselves.

By way of example, it said discounter Lidl in Hackney had no pasta, toilet paper, flour, tinned fish or oil on Thursday night, while Sainsbury’s in Charlton had neither pasta nor toilet paper on Friday. 

It said anecdotal evidence from across London indicates many people are hoarding basics.

Meanwhile, another UK ‘big four’ supermarket group, Morrisons, has said it is planning to pay its smaller suppliers within 48 hours to help them get through the outbreak.

Confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK stood at 590 on Thursday (12 March) with the death toll rising to ten.