Shopping rules: latest restrictions at Asda, Sainsbury's, Tesco & more supermarkets explained

As restrictions in the UK continue, we round up the latest shopping rules and restrictions being enforced by the major supermarkets during the coronavirus pandemic.

The coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on the way we buy things, with all UK supermarkets introducing new shopping rules and restrictions on a regular basis.

It’s worth noting that even though restrictions in the UK have recently been eased in pubs, restaurants and other places, supermarkets may not necessarily change their rules.

So, for example, even though you can now meet indoors with up to six people (or two households), all UK supermarkets are still recommending you shop alone if you can.

Whether you shop at Tesco, Asda, Aldi, Sainsbury's or any major supermarket, you could be denied entry if you don't adhere to the rules, so it's important you understand the requirements before you head out. 

From forcing limits on the number of shoppers to banning entry to those who don’t wear a face mask (unless exempt), we look at the latest rules being enforced at each major supermarket, which we've listed in alphabetical order below.

Don't forget the face mask

But first, be aware that face masks are currently mandatory for shoppers in Scotland and England (you can read our guide to the best face masks here).

According to media reports, the Government is planning to review the use of face masks in shops soon, so the rules could change, but this is yet to be confirmed.

It’s worth stressing that some supermarkets have introduced stricter rules with some banning entry if you don’t wear a mask – unless you’re exempt. We've asked some of the major supermarkets to explain their policy and have published their response.

If you don’t wear a mask and are not exempt (learn more about exemptions here), you may be hit with a fine of at least £100, which can be hiked every time you don’t wear one.

One final point: if you are able to secure an online delivery slot at any supermarket and are self-isolating, please make a note in the 'delivery instructions' section when ordering so the driver can respond accordingly.

Latest Aldi shopping rules

Has Aldi changed its store opening hours?

Stores are usually open up to 10pm every day and Sunday opening hours will be extended slightly although this is in response to the Euros, not the pandemic. 

Aldi has helpfully revealed the busiest and quietest times to shop, which you can check out below.

Busiest and quietest times at Aldi. (Image: Aldi)

Are there any buying restrictions in place?

According to Aldi's website, there are no buying restrictions at the time of writing, but it has warned some items may be temporarily unavailable due to increased demand. 

What is Aldi’s policy on face masks?

Aldi says that all customers will be required to wear a mask unless they are medically exempt.

The discounter says that anyone without a medical exemption that refuses to wear a mask will not be allowed to enter its stores.

Any dedicated elderly & vulnerable shopping times at Aldi?

Aldi no longer offers special opening times for the vulnerable and elderly.

Any dedicated shopping times for NHS workers?

The discounter no longer offers special opening times for NHS, police and fire service workers. 

Any restrictions on shoppers at Aldi?

Yes, the number of people in store is being limited when necessary. Aldi uses an 'automated traffic light' system to indicate when customers can safely enter the store. 

There are markers on the floor to help everyone maintain a safe distance and paying by contactless methods is encouraged.

Aldi is also advising people to shop alone if possible.

Are contactless card payments up to £45 accepted?

Yes.

What’s the current waiting time for new online deliveries?

You can’t order grocery products online for delivery although you may be able to use Aldi's Click & Collect service.

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Latest Asda shopping rules

Asda shopping restrictions (Image: Shutterstock)

Has Asda changed its store opening hours?

At the time of writing, opening times vary, so it’s best to check the store locator.

Are there any buying restrictions in place?

Asda says it will occasionally put purchase limits on certain products that are in high demand.

What is Asda’s policy on face masks?

Asda says it will offer free face masks to customers who have forgotten theirs, although if they refuse to wear one without a valid medical reason, they will be refused entry. 

"We have strongly encouraged customers to wear face coverings in our stores since legislation on wearing a mask in retail spaces was introduced in July," commented a spokesperson for Asda. 

"In September, we introduced 1,000 COVID safety marshals in our stores to work alongside our security colleagues monitoring face coverings, offering free coverings to customers who have forgotten theirs and encouraging adherence to social distancing guidelines.

"We are grateful to our colleagues for their hard work in incredibly difficult circumstances and we implore customers to treat them with respect and comply with the mandatory requirement to wear a face covering unless they have a medical exemption.

"If a customer has forgotten their face covering, we will continue to offer them one free of charge – but should a customer refuse to wear a covering without a valid medical reason and be in any way challenging to our colleagues about doing so – our security colleagues will refuse their entry.’’

Any dedicated elderly & vulnerable shopping times at Asda?

There are no special opening hours for the elderly or vulnerable, but a Volunteer Shopping Card will allow people to buy goods for those who cannot leave the house.

This card doesn’t involve exchanging cash or sharing bank details and can be used for contactless payment.

Any dedicated shopping times for NHS workers?

Asda no longer offers dedicated priority hours for NHS workers. 

Any restrictions on shoppers?

Yes, the number of customers in store will be limited when necessary, so Asda recommends shopping by yourself if possible.

Asda's virtual queuing system, Qudini, is available in all 421 superstores, which means you won’t have to physically queue outside. You join a virtual queue via an app and then enter the store when you’re at the front of the queue.

Across the store, there are floor markings spaced two metres apart to help encourage social distancing.

Are contactless card payments up to £45 accepted?

Yes, the contactless limit has been increased to £45 at Asda.

What’s the current waiting time for new online deliveries?

Asda is currently offering some home delivery slots over the next few weeks but it’s worth flagging that availability can vary in different areas.

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Lidl shopping rules

Has it changed its store opening hours?

Lidl says most of its stores are open as usual, but recommends customers check local opening hours.

The discounter has revealed the busiest and quietest times for shopping – check out the graphic below.

When Lidl is busiest and quietest. (Image: Lidl)

Are there any buying restrictions in place?

Lidl isn’t planning to introduce any restrictions (at the time of writing).

What is Lidl’s policy on face masks?

Lidl says security guards will remind customers to wear face coverings, unless they are exempt. If a customer is not medically exempt and declines to wear a face covering, they will be refused entry.

The discounter also said it is up to the authorities to enforce regulations and to issue either a fine or fixed penalty to those who do not comply.

Any dedicated elderly & vulnerable shopping times?

There are no dedicated shopping times for the elderly and vulnerable.

Any dedicated shopping times for NHS workers?

There are none at the time of writing, although Lidl has worked with the Royal Voluntary Service to deliver fruit and veg to NHS frontline staff.

Any restrictions on shoppers?

Lidl is monitoring the volume of people entering stores, so the number of shoppers may be restricted and there are floor markings to encourage social distancing.

The discounter encourages customers to shop alone and also advises people to pay by contactless if they can.

Are contactless card payments up to £45 accepted?

Yes, you can now pay for your shopping via contactless for bills of up to £45.

What’s the current waiting time for new online deliveries?

You can’t order grocery products online for delivery – you must go in store.

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Morrisons shopping rules

Morrisons shopping restrictions (Image: Shutterstock)

Has Morrisons changed its store opening hours?

Yes, most Morrisons stores will now be open from 7am to 10pm (or 11pm). 

It’s worth checking the store locator for local opening times.

Are there any buying restrictions in place?

There are no buying limits at the time of writing.

What is the policy on face masks?

Morrisons will bar customers who refuse to wear a face covering, unless they are medically exempt, according to media reports. 

Initially, the supermarket encouraged shoppers to wear a face mask and offered sunflower lanyards to those with hidden disabilities, so extra help can be offered.

Any dedicated elderly & vulnerable shopping times?

There are none at the time of writing, but Morrisons does offer a Doorstop Delivery service for the elderly and vulnerable.

Any dedicated shopping times for NHS workers?

NHS workers can visit any Morrisons store from 6am to 7am, Monday to Saturday, and 9am to 9:30am on Sundays.

Any restrictions on shoppers?

Morrisons encourages ‘one person per trolley’ and uses a queueing system when necessary.

The supermarket offers a ‘speedy shopper’ queue. So, customers who want to do a smaller shop (with one basket) can gain quicker entry – there are also more dedicated card-only checkouts to speed up shopping.

Morrisons says three ‘speedy shopper’ customers will be let in for every person with a trolley, while marshalls can help people pick the best queue for their needs.

Are contactless card payments up to £45 accepted?

Yes, the contactless limit has been increased to £45.

What’s the current waiting time for new online deliveries?

The availability of Morrisons delivery slots vary by area – some areas might have less slots due to high demand.

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Sainsbury’s shopping rules

Sainsbury's shopping rules (Image: Shutterstock)

Has it changed its store opening hours?

Yes, most stores are open from 7am to 10pm or even 11pm, Monday to Saturday, while Sunday opening hours will remain the same.

It’s worth using the store locator to check the opening hours of your local.

Are there any buying restrictions in place?

At the time of writing, there are no buying restrictions in place.

What is Sainsbury’s policy on face masks?

Sainsbury's has recently introduced a stricter face mask policy, stating that customers must wear a face mask unless they are medically exempt, and you should shop alone if possible. Trained security guards will challenge those not wearing a mask or shopping in groups. 

Last year, Sainsbury’s said it won’t challenge customers without a face mask as they may have a reason not to wear one, but later announced greeters will be outside all supermarkets and busy convenience stores to remind customers to wear face coverings.

Any dedicated elderly & vulnerable shopping times at Sainsbury's?

According to Sainsbury’s site, elderly and vulnerable customers now have priority access, so they can skip the queue anytime to quickly enter the store.

Any dedicated shopping times for NHS workers?

All NHS and social care workers can skip the queue at any time and gain priority access to Sainsbury’s, providing they have ID.

Any restrictions on shoppers?

Yes, only one adult per household will be allowed into the store. If you show up with more than one adult, one must be chosen to shop while the others wait outside.

Children are welcome – but only if they cannot stay at home.

Sainsbury's also revealed it has significantly reduced the number of customers allowed into stores at any one time, so you may have to queue. 

There is a queueing system in place outside stores and markings on the shop floor to help everyone maintain a safe distance. Also, there is a queuing app available for 55 Sainsbury’s stores, which allows you to virtually queue.

If you don’t have a smartphone, you can be added to a virtual queue by asking a member of staff, who will inform you when you can enter the store. 

Are contactless card payments up to £45 accepted?

Yes, the contactless limit has been raised up to £45.

What’s the current waiting time for new online deliveries?

Sainsbury’s accepts new customer registrations for home delivery and Click & Collect slots but prioritises vulnerable customers for delivery slots. It's worth stressing that online delivery slots may not be available for a few weeks, depending on where you live.

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Tesco shopping rules

Tesco shopping rules (Image: Shutterstock)

Has Tesco changed its store opening hours?

Most stores will now close at 10pm (or even midnight) but it’s recommended that you check opening times for your local.

Are there any buying restrictions in place?

Yes, there are buying limits on some products, including toilet rolls, flour and hand sanitiser. If you’re ordering your shopping online, there is a limit of 115 items per order.

What is Tesco's policy on face masks?

Tesco says if you don't wear a face mask and are not exempt, you won't be allowed in store. 

"Since the start of the pandemic, we have focused on ensuring everyone can get the food they need in a safe environment," said a Tesco spokesperson. 

"To protect our customers and colleagues, we won’t let anyone into our stores who is not wearing a face covering, unless they are exempt in line with Government guidance.

"We are also asking our customers to shop alone, unless they’re a carer or with children.

"To support our colleagues, we will have additional security in stores to help manage this.

“Our colleagues are working hard in difficult circumstances to make sure everyone can get what they need, and we’d ask everyone to please be kind, patient and respectful as we all work to keep each other safe.”

Similar to Morrisons, Tesco offers sunflower lanyards to disabled shoppers, so they can get extra help without having to ask.

Any dedicated elderly & vulnerable shopping times?

Some stores will be prioritising access for elderly and vulnerable customers between 9am and 10am every Wednesday and Sunday (except at Express stores).

Any dedicated shopping times for NHS workers?

Those who work for the NHS or emergency services, as well as care workers, get priority access to Tesco stores and can skip the queue at any time (with proof of ID). 

Any restrictions on shoppers?

Tesco has many social distancing measures, including directional floor markings and updated signs around its stores.

There is also a limit on the number of people allowed in store as a traffic light system is being used for some of Tesco’s stores to let people know when it’s safe to enter.

It is still encouraging people to shop on their own (kids are obviously allowed to accompany you).

Are contactless card payments up to £45 accepted?

Tesco has raised its contactless limit to £45 in all stores.

What’s the current waiting time for new online deliveries?

The availability of Tesco home delivery slots is very limited, so you could be waiting a few weeks, but availability can vary in different areas.  

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Waitrose shopping rules

Waitrose shopping rules (Image: Shutterstock)

Has it changed its store opening hours?

Waitrose shops are open as usual. 

Are there any buying restrictions in place at Waitrose?

Waitrose has no buying restrictions at the time of writing.

What is Waitrose’s policy on face masks?

Waitrose says that all customers must wear a face covering (unless exempt) and marshals will be positioned at the entrances of all supermarkets.

Marshals will have disposable masks available for customers who do not have their own and will bar admission to anyone refusing to comply. Only one member of each household is allowed to shop (if possible). 

“By insisting on the wearing of face coverings, over and above the social distancing measures we already have in place, we aim to make our shops even safer for customers," commented Andrew Murphy, executive director of operations at Waitrose. 

Any dedicated elderly & vulnerable shopping times?

Waitrose says vulnerable customers, including the elderly, will be prioritised if there’s a queue outside of the shop.

It will also be prioritising online delivery slots for vulnerable and elderly customers, as well as offering an e-gift card so other people can buy goods for them.

Any dedicated shopping times for NHS workers?

Currently there are no dedicated shopping hours for NHS staff, but all Waitrose stores offer priority access exclusively for NHS workers. You’ll need to bring ID to prove eligibility.

Any restrictions on shoppers?

Yes, Waitrose is currently limiting the number of customers in its shops and has requested that couples and families don’t shop together.

Similar to other supermarkets, there will be signs to keep customers two metres apart. On top of this, dedicated marshals will help manage queues.

Are contactless card payments up to £45 accepted?

Yes, Waitrose has increased the limit.

What’s the current waiting time for new online deliveries?

You may have to wait several weeks for a delivery slot. 

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