Huge queues form this morning outside Thanet Tesco stores

Queue at Teco Westwood Image from Jake Snowden video

Crowds have queued outside Tesco at Westwood for opening this morning (March 22) despite government advice on social distancing.

The queue at the Westwood store stretches far across the car park and many people are clustered in groups.

Advice has been to shop online but delivery and click and collect slots are not available for several weeks. It is understood many shoppers may have been NHS staff trying to get supplies before starting shift and IDs had to be checked at the door. However, not all people were key staff and should not have been queuing for the dedicated hour.

Busy: Photo David Townsend

Tesco, Asda, Aldi, and Lidl are due to hire thousands of staff to try and cope with the demand,

Sainsbury’s has asked shoppers to stay 1m away from shop staff if possible.

Westgate resident Lorraine Hambidge has created 2m apart signs for shops in the town.

National data

As of 9am on 22 March 2020, 78,340 people have been tested in the UK, of which 72,657 were confirmed negative and 5,683 were confirmed positive.

281 – a rise of 48 – patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) have died.

In Kent, 48 people are confirmed as positive for the virus – up 13 from March 20 – with a further 11 in Medway.

Confirmed cases in Thanet include one at Birchington Vale, another in Westgate, a staff member at Saga and a parent of a Chatham & Clarendon grammar student as well as an unconfirmed number being treated at QEQM Hospital.

Tesco Manston Photo Katie Keen

The UK has not yet reached the peak of the virus and steps to halt the spread include closures of schools, hospitality and leisure venues and the advice for social distancing and social isolation.

Despite this, and the rising death toll in affected countries such as Italy, the message is not getting through to everyone.

Government advice

The government has urged the public to take steps to protect themselves and the wider population from the coronavirus, including:

  • Everyone to stay at home unless they need to get essential supplies such as food and medicines.
  • All those able to work from home to do so, unless their work is essential.
  • Only travelling if absolutely necessary – while public transport won’t stop, this should only be used for essential travel  – for example by key workers to travel to and from work.

What is social distancing?

Social distancing measures are steps you can take to reduce social interaction between people. This will help reduce the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).

They are to:

  1. Avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). These symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough
  2. Avoid non-essential use of public transport when possible
  3. Work from home, where possible. Your employer should support you to do this.
  4. Avoid large and small gatherings in public spaces, noting that pubs, restaurants, leisure centres and similar venues are currently shut as infections spread easily in closed spaces where people gather together.
  5. Avoid gatherings with friends and family. Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media
  6. Use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services

Everyone should be trying to follow these measures as much as is practicable.

We strongly advise you to follow the above measures as much as you can and to significantly limit your face-to-face interaction with friends and family if possible, particularly if you:

  • are over 70
  • have an underlying health condition
  • are pregnant

This advice is likely to be in place for some weeks.

Stay at home if you have either:

  • a high temperature – you feel hot to touch on your chest or back
  • a new, continuous cough – this means you’ve started coughing repeatedly

Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.

You do not need to contact 111 to tell them you’re staying at home.

Testing for coronavirus is not needed if you’re staying at home.

  • if you have symptoms, stay at home for 7 days
  • if you live with other people, they should stay at home for 14 days from the day the first person got symptoms

If you live with someone who is 70 or over, has a long-term condition, is pregnant or has a weakened immune system, try to find somewhere else for them to stay for 14 days.

If you have to stay at home together, try to keep away from each other as much as possible.

Use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service if:

  • you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home
  • your condition gets worse
  • your symptoms do not get better after 7 days


  1. Massive queues at supermarkets with no attempt to distance from this around you. Another sad indictment of what has become of this country in recent years. People need to take this seriously rather than the casual ‘it won’t happen to me’ attitude. You only have to look at what is happening today in northern Italy and understand that it will be like that here in less than two weeks time unless we all take action now and stay indoors.

    • You should have popped up and told the hundreds of NHS workers and Tesco staff queuing in the freezing cold that they didn’t really need any shopping, Thanetbusinessman.

    • That’s very difficult if you have to go to a corner shop or a big supermarket just to buy milk bread and some cold meat and ready made chilled meal. For example

    • Lets put this in perspective, official statistics say something like 40,000 people are dying each year from air pollution, possibly more in the UK, and some 9million worldwide! Also, in 2018 26,610 people were seriously injured in car accidents, including 1,770 killed! Where is the public outcry? So, nearly 900 people are dying each week, unnecessarily but nothing is being done about it. So far about 240 have died due to this virus in the UK, since it started several weeks ago, so get this in proportion!

      At my local Cafe’ a police officer came in over the weekend and told them to close down! The police do not have the authority to do this, as no one will be committing an offence if they keep their pub, café, or any other business open! I spoke to the police about this, as my café is vital to many pensioners like myself, and was told this was “advice” only! I call it Scare Tactics! The police would be better off serving the community by stopping people buying household goods from supermarkets, and reselling them on E-bay! I was told someone was selling toilet tissue at 6 rolls for £30.00 this way, Duurh!

      • Dumpton, the number of people dying has not yet reached its peak. It is because most sensible people are self isolating that the total number isn’t much greater yet. 5476 people have died from the virus in Italy already in a short space of time. If/when this happens in the UK it will put extreme pressure on the NHS. The road accident fatalities and pollution deaths you talk about are spread throughout the year and do not impact the NHS to such an extent. I am sorry your Café may not be open for a few weeks but this is for everyone’s protection. All of us are potential carriers and spreaders of the virus.

      • Dumpton, you are an uninformed idiot spouting .You are a clown and you are spreading misinformation. It’s people like you who will end up endangering other people with your incorrect assumptions and complete lack of knowledge of this virus. Perhaps you should read up on what’s really happening before spouting absolute crap. You and others like you are a danger to society.

      • I don’t think you’re an “uninformed idiot”. I think you’re stating the bleeding obvious.
        The common cold (another coronavirus) is more infectious than C19, but hardy ever fatal. Influenza is not as infectious as C19, but more deadly.
        And whether the 40,000 deaths from breathing crap air are all lumped together or spread out, it’s still 40,000 people who died before their time.
        And that’s another point: the huge majority of C19 deaths are suffered by elderly people with underlying medical conditions. IE, they would very likely have died sooner rather than later.
        None of what I’ve posted is an attempt to belittle the gravity of the situation. I don’t want anyone to die prematurely.
        But Dumpton is perfectly entitled to put the situation in context.

  2. There is no logical reason why such massive queues are forming across Thanet and the nation; there is enough food and hard to see why we are not in normal shopping patterns, but we aren’t. Tesco has no delivery slots or click and collect, and the dilemma of close contact from personal shopping is just not being addressed. Seniors and vulnerable do have the early morning option but the level of risk has never been mentioned. This is just not acceptable; time for the army to come in and help with deliveries to the elderly and vulnerable? I have been a Tesco customer for 40+ years with regular online orders, and at the time I really need them there is no home delivery or collect. Apart from anything else, I think the level of risk for personal shopping has to be discussed.

    • People have gone mad,so you have got to stay indoors for a week or two how many toilet rolls do you need, and hand soap were people not washing there hands before. If you don’t feel well don’t go out and if you feel 100%
      You can go out just keep tour distance from other people. How hard is it.

  3. its beginning to get me down , I am down to my last 4 loo rolls , I have enough food to make the main part of a meal for about a week. But whats the point of doing a weekly shop when you cant get 70% of what you need. Instead of doing a weekly shop you now have to do a daily shop to try and get food etc. Which means I am putting my self more at risk.


  4. As a councillor im financially through my councillors grant “our kitchen “ in their efforts to provide FREE food parcels to the public. I am also available to continue giving individual help to people by phone and e mail. Im sure other councillors are doing similar.

    • Barry see my post above! If my café is closed down, as a 78 year old single man, with two life threatening lung diseases, and a heart condition, I will be Banjaxed if I lose my local café, where I get my main well balanced, nutritional meal every day! As will several more pensioners I know who use it! No official has contacted me yet, although I have been contacted by at least three friends and neighbours, but they would have no luck getting any shopping for me, because my local ASDA about 300 yards away, is cleaned out by 9am every morning!

  5. At least sainsbury’s recognised you can’t have same time for Elderly and high risk NHS workers !
    Madness to mix these types together should have seperate or tge supermarkets need to set up in hospital canteens provisions that can be picked up by staff.

  6. Just spoken to someone who had shopped at Lidl in Hawkinge. Well-organised, safe- distancing observed. Ample stocks of most things.

    What do people need with all this food? Where do they store it?

  7. If this continues it will have to be ration books. Or food shops closing thanks to the “ I’m alright jack idiots”
    There should also be a curfew on kids not to be out after 6 pm. At 2:30. am this morning the was about 30 youngsters in joss bay car park god knows what they were doing.

  8. I think rationing is the way we are going. It’s so sad that so many people are being so selfish with their food stockpiling. I never thought I would see rationing in my life time outside of a war situation but that looks like the only thing left to stop this utterly mindless and moronic behaviour

  9. Kids were sent home from Schools, not for a holiday but to stay safe indoors so what are they doing socialising on the streets? And queues like that are madness and a prime example of people not caring about others. If just one of them is carrying the virus they could infect others who will infect more. They should be indoors away from each other. I bet the trolleys and baskets are not being sanitised inbetween customers either.
    If only the stores filled their shelves up with replacement stocks then you would not have all this searching around and putting yourselves at risk of catching it. And, why are cafe’s still allowing customers inside their premises after being told to close? Still have seating and benches outside for people to gather is ridiculous ignorance of the resons why this is being done. You need to stay safe and stay away from groups of people who could be carrying Coronavirus.
    Yes, we need the military on the streets to keep non essential people off them. Nobody is listening to the warnings and policing themselves at present. I have seen what is happening in parts of Italy and Spain and it is on it’s way here very soon. And yes I too am almost out of food and toiletries because of all the greedy people who keep going out to buy more and hoard it. Shame on them. Allow the essential services to carry on and get their groceries along with the old and disabled. Give them a chance please.

  10. Both my husband and I are in our 70’s. He’s been very ill for the last year with an unknown wasting problem (he’s 6ft and lost 5stone, now only 6.5stone). He has a prescription for a food supplement + other medications, which means I have to go to a supermarket Chemist to pick up.
    I can’t get in!! the ques are so long. We have no family near, none of our neighbors want to know.
    My neighbor went out last Thursday 4 times and 3 times on Friday, came back with bags of shopping each time. No, I’m not going to ask anyone, I’ll have to just take my chances.
    I believe it’s useless to tell people not to hoard, in this world, it’s now everyone for themselves, number 1 comes first, that’s the reality, just look at the ques if you doubt me.

  11. The general population just showing what selfish, narcissistic, garbage many of them are-all about them. The stupidity of lining up for hours before supermarkets open, crushing each other, fighting each other to get in when if they behaved like decent human beings there would be enough for everybody.

    The gathering is no surprise-most people seem to be too dense to understand how viruses spread, if you are ever on a bus in winter people are coughing & sneezing into the air or their hands all the time, with no thought for anybody else around them-the reason colds, flu etc exist is because many people do this & often don’t wash their hands after going to the toilet & then spread their germs.

    As for the supermarkets, saw in Tesco at Cliftonville a bizarre A4 sheet of paper telling people to stay a metre away from others at the tills-there isn’t even a metre between the till you are lining up at & the one next to you, let alone the people behind you in such a tiny little store with only a handful of tills & now it has doubled to two metres.

    Good luck with the hiring-who in their right mind is going to want to go & work in a store where these numpties are lining up outside in their hundreds or thousands first thing to reenact Dawn Of The Dead like we saw in Dudley this morning, thus increasing your chances of catching this thing exponentially? Then having to deal with them all day-moaning about lack of stock etc & generally abusing you verbally & being knackered out due to all the endless shelf filling while your superiors shout at you to hurry up? Every supermarket I have been in the staff who have been on for an hour or two are saying it feels like they have done a full days work already.

    Not surprised about the lack of distancing either-a bunch of rather foolish women decided to do Zumba in a local park today, they tried to keep their distance but didn’t quite manage it & as they went to pack up two of them who appear to be friends were virtually on top of each other-all of this ‘activity’ which resembled bad disco dancing without any real movement could have been done in isolation via Skype etc in their own gardens or indoors-of course the real problem looking at the size of their midriffs is they eat far too much & moving your arms like the guy out of Talking Heads isn’t going to do anything much. People are ignorant, selfish & stupid & that is why these measures will fail & before long Bumbling Boris is going to have to enforce martial law & put us all under house arrest-assuming he can ensure home deliveries from the supermarkets of course.

  12. Went to Tesco this morning, and just before I grabbed a Trolly, I blew my nose, then I grabbed the Trolly with my bare hands! Everyone does this right? It was later I realised had I got the virus, I would have contaminated the Trolly handle! My understanding is the virus is transmitted by touch, from body fluids, and by people coughing and sneezing in front of people! It doesn’t stay airborne for long, but it can do on a hard surface.

    So, the reverse could have happened! Someone with the virus could have coughed into their hand, or blown their nose, and then used a Shopping Trolly, and when they finished I could have come along, and used the same Trolly! The virus would have contaminated the handle, so transferring it to me!

    I have not seen any people cleaning Shopping Trollys at the two Supermarkets I use, so this could be a major way of spreading the disease! I have sent this hypothesis to a number of organisations, including the BBC, because it would not take much to have someone cleaning Shopping Trollys, after someone has used one, would it? In the meantime I will be using gloves!

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