Throughout the coronavirus outbreak, many members of the public have been buying large quantities of produce at supermarkets, despite being told they should not resort to panic-buying.
Doing so has meant that certain members of the public, including the elderly, may be unable to buy what they need when they attempt to purchase food and household essentials.
From Tuesday 17 March, the Iceland store at The Kennedy Centre in Belfast, Northern Ireland, will allow older individuals to shop at the supermarket on their own for an hour in the morning.
In a statement shared on The Kennedy Centre Facebook page, it asked those who do not fall into the age category to “respect this hour”.
“Iceland Foods at Kennedy Centre will be opening their store between 8-9am for the elderly commencing Tuesday 17th March,” the statement read.
“Could the wider public please respect this hour, and understand that this time is allocated for elderly people only. Iceland appeal to people’s better nature when realising who needs priority.”
Since being published on Sunday, the Facebook post has garnered 4,600 reactions, 7,000 shares and hundreds of comments.
“Well done Iceland for taking a stand. Well done for now trying a different approach to make sure those most vulnerable are able to get a chance to buy what they need,” one person wrote.
Another person pointed out that it would be helpful to allow carers and those with disabilities to shop at an earlier hour as well, stating: “Let’s look after all our vulnerable community.”
Celebrity chef Gino D’Acampo, who regularly appears on ITV’s This Morning, tweeted his approval of the measure, writing: “I like this.....very cool @IcelandFoods.”
When asked by The Independent whether the early hour for the elderly will be rolled out across more stores, a spokesperson for the supermarket said it is currently allowing its stores to make their own decisions on how best to serve their local communities.
Iceland is not the only supermarket to be offering a separate shopping hour for vulnerable members of the community.
In Australia, Woolworths introduced a shopping hour for the early and people with disabilities.
Over the weekend, British food retailers including Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda signed an open letter appealing to the public to stop panic buying amid reports of bare shelves at supermarkets across the country.
In the letter, the British Retail Consortium said: “We would ask everyone to be considerate in the way they shop.
“We understand your concerns but buying more than is needed can sometimes mean that others will be left without. There is enough for everyone if we all work together.”
If you have any coronavirus symptoms or have recently travelled to an affected area, contact the NHS helpline on 111 and do not visit your GP or hospital.