Ocado has purchased COVID-19 testing kits for its staff to ensure they can keep “working round the clock” to deliver essential goods to the public.
The online grocer is understood to have spent £1.5 million on the testing kits from an unnamed supplier, 40,000 of which have been delivered with another 60,000 still to come.
While Ocado has said it wants to use the kits to test its staff regularly and ensure they are safe to be making deliveries to the public, the retailer pledged to hand them over to the NHS if necessary.
“Ocado is clear that the NHS takes priority in the national effort to combat coronavirus and kits will be made available to the NHS if and where required,” it said.
This comes as swathes of frontline doctors and nurses are left without testing kits, with the government promising to deliver 3.5 million testing kits to the NHS this week.
This comes as Ocado continues to struggle with the weight of increased demand on its service, announcing last week that it had been forced to pause its “reserved” delivery service which sees customers receive a regular delivery day and time with an already full virtual basket which can be amended.
Ocado’s chairman also urged the British public not to “panic” over potential food shortages last week.
Lord Stuart Rose, who himself believes he has contracted the virus, told BBC radio that while Ocado has struggled to meet demand there was no danger of supermarkets running out of food during the lockdown.
The former M&S chairman, who has been self-isolating for two weeks, said: “There isn’t going to be no food tomorrow”, assuring that “nobody will starve”.
He went on to urge people to buy what they need and “make their meals work” to prevent overloading supermarkets at such crucial times.
“You can make a relatively small amount of food go a long way and I think we live in a very profligate society today – we buy too much, we eat too much, we consume too much and we have to learn new ways,” he added.