FORGET panic on the streets of London and Birmingham... it’s here in north Essex.

Hundreds of shoppers have been queueing up outside major supermarkets despite reassurances there is enough supplies for everyone.

Concerns about long term isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic, has led to empty shelves across the country.

Bulk buying has caused alarm among many worried about how they will cope without every day essentials such as long life milk and toilet roll.

Some shops have allowed elderly residents and the most vulnerable to enter their stores up to an hour earlier, so they can get their hands on items before anyone else.


Pensioner Pauline Critchley, 76, from Fordham, who has lung disease, arrived at Sainsbury’s, in Tollgate, Stanway, at 6am - a timeslot which was supposed to be reserved for the elderly.

But she says the policy is not working and staff were struggling to ensure younger shoppers abide by the new rules and let vulnerable people in first.

“It would have been ideal for me with them opening earlier,” she said.

“But it wasn’t carried out properly - it was like Christmas Eve and you couldn’t move.

“Everyone was being allowed in and I saw lots of younger people.

“If they were shopping for elderly relatives, they should have done so at a different time.”


Gordon Baxter, 71, from West Mersea, woke up at 4.30am to also travel to Sainsbury’s alongside hundreds of others.

He said he was one of the first in the queue but ended up leaving the store with merely a tin of curry and a tin of pilchards.

“It was empty and there was nothing to buy at all and all the things we needed weren’t there,” he said.

“It isn’t like people got there ahead of me, because I was at the front of the queue and could see through the windows that there was nothing left before we went in.

“Clearly nothing had been put out overnight, but surely they had people working - it is ridiculous.

“If I wanted to look at empty shelves, I could have done that in West Mersea.”


Elsewhere, in Clacton, discount department store QD, had decided to open its doors half an hour earlier for pensioners.

But when a lengthy queue started to form an hour prior to the usual opening time, manager Matt Atkins decided to open even earlier.

He said: “Yesterday it wasn’t so busy, but from word of mouth more people are hearing we are opening before we normally do.

“We have had to keep some toilet roll back each day to ensure there is some for the most vulnerable. Last Friday we got 180 toilet rolls and by Saturday lunchtime it had all gone.

“It is serious and I am worried about our staff and our customers, but we are doing the best we can to keep the shop clean and ourselves clean and help people.”

Within 40 minutes of being open, the shop’s shelf of toilet roll had been completely cleared and it will not be re-stocked until the store receives a delivery.

One early bird, who was lucky enough to get two packs of toilet roll, was mother-of-two, Kayleigh Prior, from Clacton.

She said: “We have been getting in shops, but not getting anything because people have grabbed it before we could get there because I have a pram.

“It is nappies and toilet rolls I have been struggling to get, and these are the first toilet rolls I have been able to buy in weeks.

“My face literally lit up when I saw it on the shelves. It has been an absolutely nightmare to find.

“It is worrying - at first I thought nothing of it, but now it is getting scary.”

Freddie Munden, 74, from Clacton, braved the outdoors for the first time in a while to visit QD as he was running low on certain items.

He is particularly vulnerable to the potentially fatal impact of Covid-19 due to several health complications which could get worse if he became infected.

“It is a good thing that QD has decided to open early,” he said.

“It was really quick for me - I was in and out and I got some toilet rolls and the bits and pieces I needed.

“I haven’t been out much because I have heart trouble and emphysema, so my breathing isn’t that good. I have been trying to protect myself.

“It is a worry and I have all these diseases, so I really don’t want to get it.”

Essex now has 34 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 137 of the 2,692 people infected in the UK have died.