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Iran's coronavirus death toll reaches 2,640

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s coronavirus death toll has risen to 2,640, a health ministry official said on Sunday, as the Middle East’s worst-hit country grapples with the fast-spreading outbreak.

“In the past 24 hours we had 123 deaths and 2,901 people have been infected, bringing the total number of infected people to 38,309,” Alireza Vahabzadeh, an adviser to the health minister, said in a tweet. “12,391 people infected from the virus have recovered.”

Health ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur told state TV that 3,467 of those infected were in “critical condition”.

“I am happy to announce that also 12,391 people who had been infected across the country have recovered,” Jahanpur said. “The average age of those who have died of the disease is 69.”

President Hassan Rouhani urged Iranians to adapt to their new way of life, which was likely to continue for some time.

“We must prepare to live with the virus until a treatment is discovered … The new measures that have been imposed are for everyone’s benefit … Our main priority is the safety and the health of our people,” Rouhani said during a televised meeting.

The government has banned intercity travel after warning of a potential surge in coronavirus cases because many Iranians defied calls to cancel travel plans for the Persian New Year holidays that began on March 20.

The authorities told Iranians to stay at home, while schools, universities, cultural, religious and sports centers have been temporarily closed.

Iranian authorities say U.S. sanctions are hampering their efforts to curb the outbreak and have urged other countries and the United Nations to call for the measures to be lifted. Washington has rejected lifting the sanctions.

Tensions have risen between Iran and the United States since 2018, when U.S. President Donald Trump exited Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers and reimposed sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.

“US has gone from sabotage & assassinations to waging an economic war & #EconomicTerrorism on Iranians—to #MedicalTerror amidst #covid19iran. This even exceeds what would be permissible on the battlefield,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted on Sunday.

“STOP aiding WAR CRIMES. STOP obeying IMMORAL & ILLEGAL US sanctions.”

The United States imposed fresh sanctions on Iran on Thursday. Tehran has rejected a U.S. offer to help Iran cope with the pandemic.

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Coronavirus: Guns, marijuana and Steven Seagal movies – the lockdown exceptions around the world

People in the UK have been told to remain in the house for all but essential travel and once-daily exercise in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus – but countries around the world seem to have different interpretations of lockdown.

With more than one-fifth of the world’s population affected by COVID-19, here’s a snapshot of the lockdown exceptions that have been put in place:

USA

In America, golf, guns and marijuana rate pretty high on the critical list.

Connecticut governor Ned Lamont added gun shops to his list of essential businesses, much to the shock and dismay of families of gun violence victims.

Texas attorney general Ken Paxton also issued a legal opinion saying emergency orders in his state cannot restrict gun sales.

Texas lieutenant governor Dan Patrick told a radio interviewer: “If you have a breakdown in society, well then our first line to defend ourselves is ourselves, so I think having a weapon is very important for your personal safety.”

In a move that would surely please President Trump, Arizona governor Doug Ducey included golf courses on his list of essential services.

Officials in Phoenix encouraged the city’s 1.7 million residents to “get outside, get exercise and practice responsible social distancing” in golf courses, parks and trails.

New Hampshire governor Chris Sununu said flower shops are among the essentials.

His spokesman Ben Vihstadt said they provide essential services for funeral homes.

Several states where marijuana is legal, such as California and Washington, deemed pot shops and workers in the market’s supply chain essential.

Erik Altieri, executive director of the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said: “Cannabis is a safe and effective treatment that millions of Americans rely on to maintain productive daily lives while suffering from diseases and ailments.

“It is the very definition of essential that these individuals can still access their medicine at this time.”

NEW ZEALAND

In New Zealand’s capital city of Wellington, United Video Hataitai has been declared an essential service.

FRANCE

In France, shops specialising in pastry, wine and cheese have been declared essential businesses.

Some stereotypes, it appears, are richly deserved.

ITALY

Italy, which is ahead of most other countries in the outbreak, has the most stringent rules, with only essential businesses such as food shops and pharmacies remaining open.

The manufacturing sector has been temporarily shut down, although factories that make products like medical supplies will continue to operate after making conditions safer for employees.

INDIA

With more and more people stuck at home, dependency on the internet has increased the world over. People are relying on connectivity to communicate, stream movies and play games online in a bid to ward off cabin fever.

With that in mind, India has declared the information technology sector as essential.

ISRAEL

Recognised for its vibrant religious life, people in Israel are permitted to gather for outdoor prayers, with a maximum of 10 worshippers standing two metres apart.

CHINA

China was the first country to battle the virus, and authorities closed most businesses and public facilities beginning in late January but kept open hospitals, supermarkets and pharmacies.

AND THE REST…

Health care workers, law enforcement, utility workers, food production and communications are generally exempt from lockdowns across the world.

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Coronavirus: Lockdown triggers desperate scramble as Indians walk hundreds of miles

Thousands of migrant workers in India descended on state borders and bus stations as they tried to get back to their rural eastern villages during the country’s three-week coronavirus lockdown.

Some walked for hundreds of miles in prosperous western areas including Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana and Delhi as there was no public transport available to them.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has apologised for imposing the national COVID-19 lockdown, admitting it was harsh, especially for poor people, but was needed to beat the pandemic.

The restrictions, brought in on Wednesday, are meant to prevent the virus spreading and overwhelming India’s already strained healthcare system.

But migrant workers have been forced to leave where they live as they are unable to pay their rent, and state borders have been sealed as the nation faces one of the gravest challenges of the outbreak.

Driving from Delhi towards its eastern border of Ghazipur, I came across hundreds of men with backpacks, sacks and bags walking in the heat. There were also women and children but it was overwhelmingly young men.

These were poor migrant workers, daily wage earners, and contract workers who have been left outside due to the lockdown. This informal sector forms almost 80% of India’s workforce.

Though the central and state governments have announced relief packages, free food and shelter for the migrants, they were in no mood to listen to anyone.

At the border they were made to sit beside the road as Delhi’s eastern neighbour, the state of Uttar Pradesh, had sealed its borders.

One man told me: “We want to go home, we have no work for 21 days, no money, nothing to eat or drink. We want to see our children back home. There is nothing for us here now. They are not letting us pass.”

Others joined in, calling on the government to open the borders, adding: “We don’t want anything else, we will walk home.”

The government failed to factor in the surge while locking down the country for 21 days – giving only four hours’ notice.

Almost in tears, 21-year-old Zaibi said: “I want to go home, our landlords are asking us to leave. I have walked for 50km and I will have to walk another 200 to reach home. But they are not allowing us to cross.”

There was not much evidence of social distancing which the prime minister and health experts have emphasised so often.

But when you are dealing with almost tens of thousands congregating in one place such measures are not always possible.

Missing too were the protective masks – most had handkerchiefs tied around their faces.

The sea of people and critical coverage in the media has forced the government to put on thousands of buses to take migrants back to their homes. Social media images showed the vehicles filled with migrants as well as some finding space on the roof.

The Uttar Pradesh government has ordered all migrants to be verified and quarantined in camps. An order has directed all magistrates to trace the 150,000 workers.

The police have used a combination of punishments – beating, legal and jail threats, reprimanding, cajoling and even seizing vehicles of those who violate restrictions.

India has been criticised for having one of the lowest testing rates for the virus in the world.

The exponential increase in cases in Italy, the US, Spain and France, which have similarly low rates of testing, should ring alarm bells for the Indian government.

Health experts believe the country is in the third stage of the virus spread – community transmission, though the government has denied it.

At the moment there are 1,027 positive cases and 27 deaths due to COVID-19 and this is expected to rise as lockdown and protective measures have been flouted.

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NHS consultant dies of coronavirus after testing positive for Covid-19

An NHS consultant who had tested positive for coronavirus has died from Covid-19, University Hospitals of Derby and Burton have confirmed.

Consultant Amged El-Hawrani, 55, succumbed to the disease on Saturday at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester after testing positive for coronavirus.

Mr El-Hawrani was an associate clinical director and ear, nose and throat consultant at University Hospitals of Derby and Burton.

A spokesman for Amged’s family said he was a “much-loved husband, son, father, brother and friend.”

They said he viewed his “role as a doctor as one of life’s most noble pursuits” and “had so many responsibilities but never complained.

Chief Executive of the NHS Trust, Gavin Boyle, confirmed the death in a statement and described him as an "extremely hard working consultant and ENT trainer".

Mr Boyle said: "Mr El-Hawrani, known to his colleagues as Amged, was an extremely hard working consultant and ENT trainer who was well liked at the trust and particularly at Queen’s Hospital, Burton, where he worked.

"Amged played a leading role in the merger between the hospitals in Burton and Derby and helped bring the two clinical teams together.

"He was keen to support colleagues outside of ENT and was well known across a wide number of departments.

"He was known for his dedication and commitment to his patients. He had also raised funds for the hospitals, including climbing in the Himalayas with a group of friends some years ago.

"The whole trust family is desperately saddened at losing Amged who was such a valued and much loved colleague.

"On behalf of everyone here at the trust, including our patients and the communities we serve, I would like to offer our sincere condolences to his family.

"We would also like to thank our colleagues at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust for their professionalism and the compassionate care they have shown for Amged and his family.”

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Hospitals ‘adding new coronavirus symptoms’ to lists after expert warnings

Hospitals are now reportedly treating a loss of smell and taste as symptoms of coronavirus after experts warned of the tell-tale signs.

Younger patients are especially likely to lose these senses, even if they do not experience any other symptoms.

Scientists now believe losing your smell or taste — a condition known as anosmia — could be a sign that you are a "hidden carrier" for Covid-19.

ITV News correspondent Paul Brand claims: "Have learned that some hospitals are now adding loss of taste and smell to the list of symptoms for coronavirus, as they triage patients.

"Some concern among doctors that these particular symptoms have been underplayed in all the messaging so far."

Professor Nirmal Kumar, head of ENT UK, has urged people to self-isolate if they have this symptom.

He told Sky News: "In young patients, they do not have any significant symptoms such as the cough and fever, but they may have just the loss of sense of smell and taste, which suggests that these viruses are lodging in the nose."

In a statement, ENT UK said: “There is already good evidence from South Korea, China and Italy that significant numbers of patients with proven Covid-19 infection have developed anosmia/hyposmia (loss of sense of smell).

“There have been a rapidly growing number of reports of a significant increase in the number of patients presenting with anosmia in the absence of other symptoms – this has been widely shared on medical discussion boards by surgeons from all regions managing a high incidence of cases.”

The British Rhinological Society Profession and the British Association of Otorhinolaryngology both say there appears to be a link.

  • Coronavirus panic buyers spark anger as pictures show bins overflowing with food

Approximately a third of patients who have tested positive in South Korea, China and Italy reported experiencing a loss of smell, they said in a joint statement.

The statement read: "In South Korea, where testing has been more widespread, 30% of patients testing positive have had anosmia as their major presenting symptom in otherwise mild cases," the associations said in a joint statement.

"There have been a rapidly growing number of reports of a significant increase in the number of patients presenting with anosmia in the absence of other symptoms.

"Iran has reported a sudden increase in cases of isolated anosmia, and many colleagues from the US, France and Northern Italy have the same experience."

The Department of Health and Social Care says people should self-isolate if they have a consistent cough or a fever.

The NHS website does not currently list losing smell and taste as a reason to avoid going out.

Daily Star Online has approached Public Health England for comment.

The UK death toll from coronavirus currently stands at 1,228.

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Brazil’s Bolsonaro in denial and out on a limb

As the world tries desperately to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, Brazil’s president is doing his best to downplay it.

Jair Bolsonaro has largely struggled to take it seriously. Going against his own health ministry’s advice earlier in March, and while awaiting the results of a second coronavirus test, he left self-isolation to join rallies against Congress.

He shook hands with supporters in Brasilia and sent a message to millions that this was not something to worry about.

In a televised address last week, he repeated a now well-worn phrase. “It’s just a little flu or the sniffles,” he said, blaming the media once again for the hysteria and panic over Covid-19.

A few days later, he clearly demonstrated his prioritisation of the economy over isolation measures favoured by the rest of the world.

“People are going to die, I’m sorry,” he said. “But we can’t stop a car factory because there are traffic accidents.”

A lone denier

“Jair Bolsonaro is alone right now,” says Brian Winter, editor-in-chief of the publication Americas Quarterly. “No other major world leader is denying the severity of this to the extent that he is and depending on how things go, that approach could cost a lot of lives in Brazil.”

Jair Bolsonaro is frustrated. He came to power last year promising a better economy and coronavirus has put a stop to that.

Rio’s beaches are deserted and the normally gridlocked streets of Sao Paulo are empty. Shops, schools, public spaces and businesses in many states have shut.

So Mr Bolsonaro is determined to make this pandemic political, blaming his adversaries for trying to destroy the country.

Economy rules

A few days ago, a video was shared by Jair Bolsonaro’s son, Flavio – a politician himself.

The video’s message, which claimed to come from the Brazilian government, was that “BRAZIL CAN’T STOP” (in Portuguese, #obrasilnãopodeparar). People need to keep working to keep the country safe and the economy growing.

The government refused to claim ownership of the video and has since called it “fake news”, but it’s exactly the message Mr Bolsonaro has been putting out.

So much so, in fact, that a federal judge on Saturday banned the government from campaigning against isolation measures. Government posts on social media using the hashtag were hastily removed.

“He’s clearly laying the foundation of being able to say six months to a year from now that he did not agree with tough distancing measures, with the lockdown,” says Oliver Stuenkel, Associate Professor of International Relations at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in Sao Paulo.

“It’s an attempt to reduce the negative impact that the economic crisis will inevitably have on the approval ratings of the Bolsonaro government but it’s a very risky strategy because by minimizing the crisis he’s also not leading the response,” Mr Stuenkel said.

Support for Bolsonaro

But Mr Bolsonaro’s message resonates with his supporters. In the past few days, many have held motorcades across Brazil, driving through town and honking their horns in support of businesses that want to re-open.

“When you suggest that by going out onto the streets, you could be infected, people become panicked,” says Luiz Antonio Santana Caldas, a Bolsonaro supporter from Bahia. “If you are going to be made to quarantine and there’s no solution in two weeks, all you’re doing is causing the economy to collapse.”

Paloma Freitas, a property administrator from Fortaleza, disagrees. She voted for Mr Bolsonaro but she says he no longer represents her.

“Every time I listen to him, I’m terrified,” she says. “Instead of uniting, he constantly attacks people. He thinks the country will break but dead people don’t generate money, they’re not going to make the economy tick unless it’s the funeral business.”

State governors leading the crisis

Sao Paulo’s governor, Joao Doria, along with nearly every other governor in the country, has tried to encourage the federal government to support their isolation measures. To no avail. Mr Bolsonaro just accuses them of political games.

“It’s not rational to make health and peoples’ lives political, especially those who are poor and vulnerable,” Mr Doria said, attacking Mr Bolsonaro for not valuing peoples’ lives. Mr Doria said that Brazil could – and should – stop.

Panelaços – protesting with pots and pans

The din of pot-banging on peoples’ balconies has been the soundtrack to many an evening in cities like Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro recently. The “panelaços” are a protest against a President they see as irresponsible. A man known for denying science. And a man who looks to Donald Trump as his inspiration.

“I wish Bolsonaro was listening more closely to Trump right now because if he were, he’d understand that Trump is actually taking this much more seriously than he was even two weeks ago,” says Brian Winter. “Trump is also proof that it’s never too late for a president to change his or her approach on this issue.”

There’s little sign of an about-turn from Jair Bolsonaro though – a politician who has always railed against the establishment. But in these times of crisis, people don’t want to listen to a blame-game. They need a problem to be solved – and fast.

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Coronavirus panic buyers spark anger as pictures show bins overflowing with food

Brits who stockpiled food following the coronavirus outbreak have come under fire after pictures emerged showing out-of-date items dumped in bins.

Images on social media show packets of bread, cheese, fresh bananas, and even burgers still in their wrapping left out for collection.

It has sparked a string of outraged comments after the snaps were taken in the Midlands.

They were posted on a Facebook group with the caption: “This is what panic buying really looks like, waste, waste, and more waste", Coventry Live reported.

The photographer added: "A normal shop is all that’s needed, not only do the stores stay stocked longer, less people in said stores, win win. Just take a few minutes to think.”

Many have demanded to know why the food was not donated to a foodbank.

One person asked: “Why couldn't it have been given away to someone who would have been grateful for it, rather than it being binned?”

Another said: “They now need to be fined for not using the correct recycling bin.”

The photos were also shared by Derby Liberal Democrat councillor Ajit Singh Atwal – although it is not clear if he took them himself.

  • NHS coronavirus volunteer scheme sees 750,000 heroic Brits sign up

His tweet, which has been shared more than 7,000 times, read: “To all the people in this great city of ours in Derby, if you have gone out and panic bought like a lot of you have and stacked up your houses with unnecessary items which you don't normally buy, or you have brought in more food than you need, then take a long hard look at yourself.”

Earlier this week, a national business waste company warned that panic buying will result in an increased amount of food being thrown away.

Mark Hall, of Business Waste, said: “At the moment there is a huge strain on supermarket supply chains to ensure there is enough food to go around during these difficult times.

“People should only buy what they need, otherwise they will only be throwing a lot of it away when it all goes out of date. There’s only so much you can eat.”

Many shops have now imposed limits on how many items you can buy after shelves were stripped empty because of panic buying.

Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Asda have set a limit of three for any item and two for essential products, such as toilet roll and handwash.

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Modi seeks 'forgiveness' from India's poor over coronavirus lockdown

MUMBAI (Reuters) – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the nation’s poor for forgiveness on Sunday, as the economic and human toll from his 21-day nationwide lockdown deepens and criticism mounts about a lack of adequate planning ahead of the decision.

Modi announced a three week-lockdown on Tuesday to curb the spread of coronavirus. But the decision has stung millions of India’s poor, leaving many hungry and forcing jobless migrant laborers to flee cities and walk hundreds of kilometers to their native villages.

“I would firstly like to seek forgiveness from all my countrymen,” Modi said in a nationwide radio address.

The poor “would definitely be thinking what kind of prime minister is this, who has put us into so much trouble,” he said, urging people to understand there was no other option.

“Steps taken so far… will give India victory over corona,” he added.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in India rose to 979 on Sunday, with 25 deaths.

The government announced a $22.6 billion economic stimulus plan on Thursday to provide direct cash transfers and food handouts to India’s poor.

In an opinion piece published on Sunday, Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo – two of the three winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2019 – said even more aid for the poor is needed.

“Without that, the demand crisis will snowball into an economic avalanche, and people will have no choice but to defy orders,” they wrote in the Indian Express.

The lockdown is expected to exacerbate India’s economic woes at a time when growth had already slumped to its lowest pace in six years.

MIGRANT CRISIS

There still appears to be broad support for strong measures to avoid a coronavirus catastrophe in India, a country of some 1.3 billion people where the public health system is poor.

But opposition leaders, analysts and some citizens are increasingly criticizing its implementation. In particular, they say the government appears to have been caught off guard by the mass movement of migrants following the announcement, which threatens to spread the disease into the hinterlands.

“The Gov’t had no contingency plans in place for this exodus,” tweeted opposition politician Rahul Gandhi as images of migrant laborers walking long distances to return home dominated local media.

#ModiMadeDisaster was a top trending topic in India on Sunday on social media site Twitter.

Police said four migrants were killed on Saturday when a truck ran into them in the western state of Maharashtra. Also on Saturday, a migrant collapsed and died in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, according to a police official.

“We will die of walking and starving before getting killed by corona,” said migrant worker Madhav Raj, 28, as he walked by the road in Uttar Pradesh.

On Sunday, several hundred migrants in the town of Paippad, in southern Kerala state, gathered in a square demanding transport back to their hometowns.

The central government has called on states to provide marooned laborers with food and shelter, and Modi’s supporters slammed state governments on Twitter for failing to properly implement the lockdown.

In India’s cities, too, anger was rising.

“We have no food or drink. I am sat down thinking how to feed my family,” said homemaker Amirbee Shaikh Yusuf, 50, in Mumbai’s sprawling Dharavi slum.

“There is nothing good about this lockdown. People are angry, no one is caring for us.”

Following is the spread of the coronavirus in South Asia’s eight nations, according to government figures:

* Pakistan has registered 1,526 cases, including 13 deaths.

* India has registered 979 cases, including 25 deaths.

* Sri Lanka has registered 115 cases, including one death.

* Afghanistan has registered 128 cases, including 3 deaths.

* Bangladesh has registered 48 cases, including 5 deaths.

* Maldives has registered 28 cases and no deaths.

* Nepal has registered 5 cases and no deaths.

* Bhutan has registered 4 cases and no deaths.

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Boy, 14, dies of coronavirus in one of Europe’s youngest cases

The Portuguese youngster from Ovar half an hour’s drive south of Porto, lost his fight for life in the early hours of this morning after being rushed to Sao Sebastiao Hospital in nearby Santa Maria da Feira. Medics are said to have decided against transferring him to a hospital with a paediatric A&E unit in Porto, Portugal’s second largest city, because of the severity of his condition.

Local reports said he suffered from psoriasis, a skin disorder that can affect the immune system. 

He has been confirmed as Portugal’s youngest person with coronavirus to die so far.

The girl described earlier this week as Europe’s youngest coronavirus victim, named as Julie Alliot, was first rushed to her local doctor in Longjumeau, south of Paris, on Tuesday before being transferred to the Necker Hospital in the French capital. She died the following day.

Her sister Manon paid tribute to her after news of her death became public, saying she was “bright and much loved” and “loved to dance, sing and make people laugh.”

The number of coronavirus deaths in Portugal stood at 119 at lunchtime today. Nearly 6,000 are infected with the virus and another 5,500 were awaiting the results of tests according to Ministry of Health figures.

Earlier today it emerged a British man has died on the Algarve after falling ill with coronavirus.

The OAP, who was in his seventies, lost his two-week fight for life yesterday/on Saturday at Faro Hospital.

He lived in Benagil, a beach area near Lagoa which is known for its spectacular cave.

Lagoa’s mayor Luis Encarnacao confirmed the death, the town’s second since the start of the coronavirus crisis.

The first was a 60-year-old teacher who lived in Carvoeiro and has been named as Manuel Magalhaes.

Mr Encarnacao said he had spoken to the families of both men to offer them his condolences. The Brit expat has not been named. 

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Tesco limits customers to one item of milk, bread and loo rolls in some stores

Tesco has tightened its limit on the number of essential items customers can buy in “many” of its Express stores to just one.

The rationing measures initially restricted shoppers to a five-item limit on all products before cutting it to a three-item cap.

It also introduced a two-item cap on painkillers and loo rolls amid frantic scenes of shoppers panic buying and stockpiling.

But, as the UK remains in lockdown over the coronavirus crisis, Tesco has now dropped the number to just one essential item per customer in some of its Express stores.

Now customers can only buy one pack of essential items like loo roll, eggs, milk and bread.

The new rationing measure has been announced through signs on shelves, indicating which items are limited to just one per head, reports the Sunday Times.

It has been put into effect at the discretion of individual stores and their circumstances in order to cope with local demand and balance supply.

  • Coronavirus forces Tesco to put strict limit on online shoppers' orders

Tesco has also refused to rule out the one-item limit becoming even more widespread.

A spokesman said the supermarket chain are finding understanding demand "very difficult right now", calling the scenes of panic buying “a fluid situation".

The spokesman said: “To ensure more people have access to everyday essentials, we have introduced a store-wide restriction of three items per customer on every product line.

  • Morrisons shopper 'spits on pensioners saying she hopes they all get coronavirus'

“In a small number of stores where demand is particularly high, our colleagues may need to place further restrictions on some products on a local basis, to ensure everyone can get the things they need.”

The chain has also told online customers this weekend that they can only buy a maximum of 80 items for home delivery.

Other supermarkets have introduced similar capping schemes – ranging from two to four items per head – in response to coronavirus stockpiling.

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