How to get food and other essential supplies during the coronavirus pandemic.

Published 29 April 2020
Last updated 4 November 2020 — see all updates

If you’re clinically extremely vulnerable

Read advice from 5 November for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable.

If you’re clinically extremely vulnerable, you’ll have received a letter. With this letter you can register for support online.

You can use this service to:

  • apply for access to priority supermarket delivery slots

  • confirm whether you’re likely to need additional support

If you were on the supermarket priority list for food delivery slots before 31 July 2020, you’ll remain on the list.

If you’re having difficulty shopping

Follow this guidance if you’re having difficulty shopping because:

  • you’re vulnerable

  • you have a disability that makes social distancing more difficult

  • the support services you usually rely on aren’t available during the pandemic

  • you’re self-isolating because you or someone in your household has symptoms or you’ve been contacted by NHS Test and Trace

  • you’re self-isolating because you have recently returned to the UK after travelling from a country or territory not on the exemptions list

If you’re self-isolating you should not leave your home or the place you’re staying until your self-isolation period has ended.

If you can, ask friends, family or neighbours who are well to go out and get food and other essentials for you. Supermarkets and other food shops will remain open during any national or local lockdown.

If you do not have others to help you, there may be community groups who can help in your area or your local shops, markets and wholesalers may be able to provide orders for delivery (by phone or by email).

If someone is going to the shops for you, most of the major supermarkets have alternative ways you can pay for your shopping, such as e-vouchers or gift cards. You can buy these online and the person shopping for you can use them in store. To find out about payment options, visit:

  • your supermarket’s website, or call their customer helpline

  • UK Finance (the collective voice for the banking and finance industry)

You may also be eligible for support from the NHS Volunteer Responders programme. You can call 0808 196 3646 and ask for help to pick up food, prescriptions and essential items.

You can also contact your local authority to find out what support services are available in your area.

If you’re able to leave your home and are not self-isolating

Supermarkets and other food retailers remain open and you can shop for food and other essentials in person unless you’re self-isolating.

You should shop in store if you can so that supermarket delivery slots are available for those who need them most. Supermarkets are working with government to prioritise access to online delivery slots for the vulnerable.

You must wear a face covering in shops, supermarkets and indoor shopping centres, unless you have a face covering exemption because of your age, health or another condition.

Read guidance on making and wearing a face covering.

Supermarkets are disinfecting trolleys and baskets to protect you.

Make sure you use the markings on the floor and advice in store to follow social distancing rules.

Try to plan what your household and anyone you’re supporting needs for a number of days ahead so that your trips to buy food and essentials are as infrequent as possible.

Shopping for others

Consider offering to shop for people you know who are self-isolating or more vulnerable and unable to get to the shops.

If you’ve signed up for the NHS Volunteer Responders programme, you can volunteer to support others in your community as well as family and friends.

If you’re shopping for someone else, most of the major supermarkets have ways that you can pay on behalf of others, such as e-vouchers and gift cards. The person you’re shopping for can buy these online and you can use them in store. Local convenience stores may also have options available, so check what is on offer.

Read the guidance on helping others safely.

Find out about the different ways to volunteer during the coronavirus .

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