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'Nobody will starve,' says Ocado chair, urging Britons to stop stockpiling

Zoe Wood
Photograph: Dylan Martinez/Reuters

Stuart Rose, the former Marks & Spencer boss who now chairs Ocado, has urged Britons to stop stockpiling groceries, saying “nobody will starve” during the coronavirus outbreak.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, Rose said: “There is no shortage of food. Nobody will starve. There is a £1bn more food in people’s larders than there was a couple of weeks ago. What are they doing with it? How much do you need to eat? How much do you need to store away?”

What do the restrictions involve?


People in the UK will only be allowed to leave their home for the following purposes:

  • Shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible
  • One form of exercise a day – for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household
  • Any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
  • Travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home

Police will have the powers to enforce the rules, including through fines and dispersing gatherings. To ensure compliance with the instruction to stay at home, the government will:

  • Close all shops selling non-essential goods, including clothing and electronic stores and other premises including libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms, and places of worship
  • Stop all gatherings of more than two people in public – excluding people you live with
  • Stop all social events, including weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies, but excluding funerals

Parks will remain open for exercise, but gatherings will be dispersed.


The businessman urged shoppers to “show some restraint” and not to waste anything. He said there was enough on supermarket shelves to satisfy the needs of vulnerable members of society.

Recent data showed that the average spend per supermarket trip had risen 16% in the week ending 17 March. In the same period there were an additional 15m food shopping trips – an increase of 12% – according to the market analysts Kantar.

With all the major grocers’ online delivery slots booked up for weeks in advance, getting food to households that are self-isolating has become a top priority for supermarkets. Grocery bosses are being given access to a government database to help prioritise food deliveries for elderly and vulnerable shoppers who have been ordered to stay at home.

Rose, who has just recovered from coronavirus, channelled his inner chef as he urged people to plan their meals and show some frugality. “If you buy a chicken, roast the chicken, have the roast chicken dinner, the following day turn it into a stir fry, the following day make it into soup,” he said. “We live in a very profligate society: we buy too much, we eat too much, we consume too much, and we have to learn new ways.”

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