SUPERMARKET chains are limiting the number of shoppers allowed into their store at any given time as they introduce stricter measures in response to the coronavirus crisis.

Sainsbury's, Asda and Tesco announced last night that they are introducing stricter measures for the safety of staff and customers, starting from today (March 26).

Mike Coupe, chief executive of Sainsbury's, said: "We will limit the number of people allowed in our stores and at our ATMs at any one time. We are putting queuing systems in place outside stores and will ask everyone to please queue at a safe distance of 2 metres apart.

"Since we put limits on the number of items people could buy, food and other essential items are on shelves for longer each day so please arrive throughout the day to avoid long queues forming in the morning.

"We will be reminding people in stores to keep a safe distance from other customers and from our colleagues. Customers buying petrol will be asked to pay at the pump where they can.

"We are reducing the number of checkouts we open in supermarkets, convenience stores and petrol filling stations to help our colleagues and customers keep a safe distance from each other.

"We are also introducing safety screens at every manned checkout to help keep our colleagues safe when serving customers. We are regularly sanitising all customer areas of our stores including chip and pin machines, baskets and trolleys."

Asda CEO Roger Burnley said they will have "extra colleagues at the front of our stores, to ensure safe numbers in store at all times".

He added: "Our new barriers and signage will help guide you in and throughout our shops. Signs and distance floor-markers are there to remind you to keep 2 metres from others.

"Perspex screens will soon be fitted at checkouts, until then please keep your distance from our colleagues. Some Scan and Go tills are closed to help maintain distances.

"Please only touch items you intend to purchase. Use cashless payments wherever possible - contactless limit will be increased to £45 from 1st April to make this easier.

"It has never been more important for us to work together to keep our distance. I want you to know that everyone at Asda is working tirelessly to make sure you have the essentials your family needs and that you can shop in our stores safely if you need to visit us.

"We’re working hard to protect you and our colleagues – please help us to do so by following the guidelines in place. My colleagues in our stores are working under incredible pressure to serve you, and I am hugely grateful to them for their efforts.

"Please be kind to them when you visit us - we’re all in this together."

Tesco boss Dave Lewis has written to customers saying staff will draw new floor markings in the checkout areas, install protective screens on checkouts, and introduce one-way aisles.

"Our social distancing plans aim to protect customers from the moment they enter our car parks, to browsing products, to paying and finally exiting our stores," he wrote.

Meanwhile, Lloyds Pharmacy said that only two customers would be allowed into its stores at any one time. The chain will adopt a strict two-in two-out policy.

"We need to ensure people keep two metres apart and that we give our colleagues the time to dispense medicines safely and in a timely way.

"We are asking customers to be a little more tolerant of waiting times and, at times, this may mean waiting outside the pharmacy," said chief executive Toby Anderson.

Lloyds also said it is looking to fill 1,500 vacancies. These will firstly be filled by staff moving from other areas, and staff members' family members will also be given preference.