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Pensioner describes ‘look of fear and shock’ as elderly find empty shelves in supermarket

PUBLISHED: 17:21 20 March 2020 | UPDATED: 20:32 20 March 2020

Roy and Eunice Cleife, pictured on holiday in happier times. Pic: submitted

Roy and Eunice Cleife, pictured on holiday in happier times. Pic: submitted

A 76-year-old shopper who visited an early slot at a Norwich Sainsbury’s has told of “reckless and selfish stockpiling” because of coronavirus.

Roy Cleife and his wife Eunice, 74, are preparing to self-isolate and after being unable to get an online shopping slot were relieved when Sainsbury’s announced it would be opening at 7am on Thursdays for the over 70s.

But after getting up early and making the trip from their home in Surlingham, 10 miles away, to the supermarket in Brazen Gate, they faced “row upon row” of empty shelves and eventually bought food on the way home from a local farm shop.

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Mr Cleife was so incensed he drafted a plan to his parish council to implement a scheme to help older and vulnerable people living in the village.

Sainsburys in Brazen Gate, otherwise known as the Queen's Road branch. Pic: Sainsbury'sSainsburys in Brazen Gate, otherwise known as the Queen's Road branch. Pic: Sainsbury's

As a result a Good Neighbour scheme is now up and running whereby volunteers including Buddhists from the nearby Padmaloka retreat will run errands and get medicines for those who need to self-isolate.

The village’s two pubs the Ferry House and Coldham Hall Tavern are offering to deliver meals and Teles Patisserie is offering a free delivery of soup, bread and cakes within a five mile radius.

Mr Cleife, who spent 33 years in the RAF, said: “There were no vegetables, no fruit, no dairy. I have never felt such anger in all of my life.

“We did not feel anger for ourselves but it was the faces of most customers that impacted on us. Many were a good deal older than us and possibly single and alone. It was a look of fear and shock. They are images I am not going to easily erase from my mind.”

Shelves have been stripped of toilet roll at Sainsbury's. This is not the Sainsbury's the couple visited.   Picture: Chris BishopShelves have been stripped of toilet roll at Sainsbury's. This is not the Sainsbury's the couple visited. Picture: Chris Bishop

When this newspaper tried to order an online Sainsbury’s food delivery none was available for any time in the near future.

However, Sainsbury’s have now stated that customers over 70 or those with a disability will be given priority access to its online delivery slots from Monday, March 23. It is also expanding its click and collect services.

A spokeswoman from Sainbury’s said: “We do sympathise with Mr and Mrs Cleife, we are ensuring shelves are re-stocked as soon as possible.”

Surlingham parish council chairman John Broom helped implement the Good Neighbour scheme, details of which are on the village website and shortly in a newsletter to be delivered locally.

He added: “The scheme coordinates more than 15 volunteers and will arrange for the delivery of food and medicine to local residents who have no other means of support.”

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