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Boris Johnson urges panic-buying Brits 'to behave responsibly'

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday told people to stop stockpiling as supermarkets imposed limits on the purchase of goods after shelves were emptied because of coronavirus fears.

[LONDON] British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday told people to stop stockpiling as supermarkets imposed limits on the purchase of goods after shelves were emptied because of coronavirus fears.

Shelves of toilet paper, anti-bacterial hand gel, tinned food, soap and paracetamol have all been stripped from stores across the country in recent days because of panic buying.

But Mr Johnson said those responsible should think of others before taking as much as they can.

"I think it is very, very important that people should behave responsibly and think about others," he told reporters at a Downing Street press conference.

He added that he was "confident" shop shelves would remain stocked.

The situation in supermarkets has been fuelled by recommendations last week by health authorities for Britons to "plan ahead" in case they are forced to self-isolate for several weeks.

But the country's chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance said he believed there was "absolutely no reason" for the public to panic buy.

Tesco last weekend introduced measures to limit purchases to a maximum five items for products including pasta, anti-bacterial hand-wipes and gels, and long-life milk.

The supermarket giant, which has nearly 3,500 stores in Britain, is so far the only supermarket chain to have imposed restrictions on food items.

Others such as Waitrose have limited the online sale of some wipes and soaps, while Walmart subsidiary Asda is only allowing the purchase of two anti-bacterial gels in stores and online.

Last week, pharmacy chain Boots limited the sale of disinfecting hand gel, after sales skyrocketed because of the spread of the virus.

Sales have more than tripled in recent weeks in Britain, which as of Monday had 321 confirmed cases of Covid-19, including five deaths.

Liquid soap sales increased by seven per cent and household cleaning products by 10 per cent in the four weeks to February 23 compared with the same period a year earlier, retail research company Kantar said.

AFP