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Ocado buys 100,000 coronavirus testing kits for staff – Telegraph.co.uk

Ocado has bought 100,000 coronavirus testing kits to keep as many employees as possible in warehouses and on the road delivering food, The Telegraph can reveal.

The online retailer’s CEO, Tim Steiner, has spent £1.5m on the tests to ensure frontline workers who are negative for COVID-19 can return to work from isolation, a source close to the company has disclosed.

Staff have been working around the clock to meet the surge in demand for supplies during the outbreak, with the volume of orders 10 times higher than average.

It comes after the Government announced that hundreds of NHS workers would be tested for coronavirus, starting this weekend. Ocado has pledged to make their testing kits available to health workers as required.

Boots, the chemist chain, this week trialled new drive-through coronavirus testing stations in Nottingham for NHS staff.

Seb James, the retailer’s CEO, said: “I am extremely proud that Boots is supporting COVID-19 testing for NHS workers. Locations are being defined but will be spread across the UK. They will not, however, be in Boots stores, allowing our colleagues to focus on supporting our customers and patients.”

Supermarkets have been battling to manage the huge number of customers congregating at stores to stock up on food, with many introducing social distancing measures to ensure they don’t bunch together in queues.

Tesco has been so overwhelmed that it requested a “visible police presence” at the busiest of its UK stores to ensure vulnerable shoppers and NHS workers are not left without.

The retail giant, which made £1.3bn in profits last year, wrote to chief constables this week asking for officers to provide “community reassurance” as a supplement to their own store security.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has asked supermarkets to ease pressure on already over-stretched forces in the coming weeks by funding their own security. It is understood that no other stores have requested a police presence.

A police source told The Telegraph: “What is unhelpful is that Tesco are not quite in the position where they are prepared to pay for their own security.

“A number of chief constables have received letters from Tesco asking them to secure their stores. Priti Patel had been clear that wasn’t going to happen.”

A Tesco spokesperson said: “Our colleagues have gone above and beyond to serve our customers over recent weeks, but despite our hard work and best intentions, we have still faced some challenges.

“In particular, while our dedicated shopping hour for NHS staff has worked well in most stores, we’re also aware that some stores were extremely busy at this time and it was harder to keep a safe distance between shoppers.

“This week we have rolled out a number of social distancing measures in stores, and we have also asked the Police for their support in providing community reassurance and a presence at our busiest stores during our priority shopping hours for NHS workers and vulnerable customers.”

Aldi announced on Saturday that it will be giving emergency workers priority access to its stores at all times. They will be able to show their ID and enter supermarkets before other customers to ensure they are not trapped in queues after working long, tiring shifts.

Lidl has teamed up with the Royal Voluntary Service to donate thousands of fresh fruit and vegetable bags to NHS staff.

Glasses Direct is giving away 2,000 pairs of prescription glasses to NHS workers for free, as well as offering free delivery.

Workers’ unions have raised concerns that delivery drivers will struggle to find enough stopping points to wash their hands while out on the road following the lockdown.

Next, TK Maxx and River Island have wound down their online operations and are no longer taking orders. Marks & Spencer and John Lewis are focussing on marketing essentials to customers, but are still delivering other items.

Mick Rix, a national organiser for the GMB union, told The Telegraph: “It’s not just about whether it’s essential or not, it’s about whether people have procedures in place to deliver safely so they don’t get the virus or pass the virus on.

“Drivers are out on the road for hours a day and have relied on using places like McDonalds and KFCs to wash their hands, but all these places are now closed.”

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