Supermarkets will be using the Government’s data on those most at risk from coronavirus to help vulnerable people get the supplies they need.

Asda said it has a “dedicated team” working with the Government, while Sainsbury’s said it will be able to see the data soon and then prioritise delivery slots for those most at risk.

An Asda spokesman said the company is “working with Government and some of our fellow supermarkets to ensure those people who have been identified as highly vulnerable get what they need and are protected from Covid-19”.

In the meantime, Tesco have said that they will be restricting their online shoppers to a maximum of 80 items per order.

Shoppers queue outside an Asda supermarket (Jane Barlow/PA)

A Tesco spokesman said: “We’re looking at every opportunity to increase the number of slots available and by introducing a limit of 80 items per online order we’ll be able to get more orders onto each van, helping us to ensure all customers can get the essentials they need.”

The company added that previously orders have averaged less than 60 items, however, in recent weeks they have seen an increase in baskets with more than 100 items.

Another supermarket boss urged healthy people to go against Boris Johnson’s advice and visit shops in person to free up delivery slots for the elderly and those most vulnerable to the pandemic.

Richard Walker, managing director of Iceland, said the company has “done their best” to restrict online orders to those most in need, but any new slots released are being “quickly snapped up”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “In a seminal address to the nation, the Prime Minister urged everyone to use food delivery services wherever possible; the reality is that current demand vastly exceeds supply.

“I’d actually urge the opposite of the PM, in that, if you are healthy, not in a vulnerable category and adhere to social distancing guidelines, please do shop in store, but make sure you shop responsibly.”

He added: “That will enhance priority online for those who need it most.”

Iceland’s boss has urged healthy people to shop in store to free up delivery slots for the elderly and vulnerable (Mike Egerton/PA)

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said it is “working with the retailers to get them the information they need – in addition to their own data – to help ensure essential items are delivered as soon as possible to the people with medical conditions that make them most vulnerable”.

A spokesman added: “We have also introduced a range of measures to keep food supply flowing and support home deliveries, such as issuing guidance to local authorities to allow extended delivery hours to supermarkets so that shelves can be filled up more quickly, and implementing extensions to drivers’ hours.”

Meanwhile, Asda said it will also provide full pay to colleagues who have been identified by the Government as needing to self-isolate for 12 weeks and will offer fully paid leave to colleagues who are vulnerable.

Marks & Spencer said it has expanded the product range and increased the size of deliveries to its 46 hospital stores across the UK to ensure NHS teams have access to essential products.

Elsewhere, Spar has implemented a range of new social distancing measures to protect staff and customers, including making disposable gloves and paper towels available in stores and forecourts.