ES News email

NHS staff fighting the coronavirus pandemic were applauded and handed bunches of flowers as they entered a Tesco store during special shopping hours reserved for healthcare workers.

A video from a branch of the supermarket giant in Belfast, Northern Ireland, showed staff welcoming the key workers early yesterday morning.

The gesture came as Tesco’s new measure allowing NHS staff to arrive one hour before the usual store opening times every Sunday came into effect.

Tesco said staff at stores across the country independently decided to make the gesture as part of the retailers’ NHS hour initiative.

Marcelle Tauber-Gilmore, a nurse at a London hospital, said she “welled up a little bit” when she was gifted a bouquet while shopping during the dedicated hour at a Tesco store in Pembury, Kent.

“It came at the right moment,” Mrs Tauber-Gilmore told the BBC. “I was feeling very anxious about going shopping. I was expecting it to be stressful and that it might be frenzied.”

She said it was “calm” and well-organised, with a manager checking NHS ID numbers.

Fellow healthcare worker Olivia Stadden meanwhile thanked Tesco staff after she also received flowers at a branch in Wales, but said it was “very worrying” stores remained so busy and workers continued to be “so exposed with no protection”.

Supermarkets “should be limiting the amount of people they allow in the store at one time,” she said in a post on Twitter.

Tesco’s NHS hour initiative was first announced last week amid widespread concern over shelves emptied by shoppers’ stockpiling. The panic buying forced several supermarkets to take drastic action and amend opening hours as well as ration products.

Several other retailers have also introduced special shopping times reserved for healthcare workers and the elderly after footage of people sharing their frustration over the panic buying spread widely on social media.

Last week, critical care nurse Dawn Bilbrough, from York, reached out to the nation after she posted a video of herself crying in her car after not being able to get food for herself following a 48-hour intensive shift.

The 51-year-old told viewers she “had a little cry” in the supermarket after she found no fruit and vegetables on the shelves.

“People are just stripping the shelves of basic foods,” she said.

“You just need to stop it, because it’s people like me that are going to be looking after you when you’re at your lowest.”