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Healthcare

UPDATE 2-Britain's Morrisons reintroduces rationing after new COVID curbs

(Adds comments from Kimberly Clark and P&G)

LONDON, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Morrisons on Thursday became the first major British supermarket chain to reintroduce shopper restrictions on purchases of key items after the government imposed new measures to stem a second wave of COVID-19.

Bradford, northern England-based Morrisons, Britain’s fourth largest supermarket group, said it was limiting consumers buying products such as soaps, rice, toilet rolls, disinfectants and bleach to a maximum of three items. It has also applied some caps to online orders.

“We’ve got decent stock levels but we want to be sure that they are available for everyone,” said a Morrisons spokesman.

Kimberly-Clark, the maker of Andrex toilet rolls and Kleenex wipes, said it was currently seeing a moderate increase in the demand for Andrex toilet tissue, but that it had more than enough product to ensure a steady supply across the UK.

“Our supply chain to our retail partners is running smoothly meaning we are well equipped to respond to, and meet, increased demand when required,” a company spokesperson said.

Consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble, behind kitchen and bathroom surface care brand Viakal, in an email said it felt good about its level of preparedness “for whatever turns the retail market might take,” using its learnings from the first Covid-19 wave in the UK in March.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the British people on Tuesday to work from home where possible and ordered restaurants and bars to close early to tackle a new spike in the pandemic, with new restrictions likely to last six months.

That prompted speculation over whether there could be stockpiling, or panic buying, of groceries similar to that seen in March when supermarket shelves were stripped bare, leading to the rationing of certain items.

Images on social media showed some gaps in supermarkets’ shelves.

However, market leader Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Walmart-owned Asda have not imposed any new restrictions.

Earlier this week the bosses of both Tesco and Aldi , Britain’s fifth largest player, said supplies were plentiful but called on shoppers to only buy what they need.

“We just don’t want to see a return to unnecessary panic buying because that creates a tension in the supply chain that’s not necessary,” said Tesco Chief Executive Dave Lewis.

Reckitt Benckiser, the company behind Dettol cleaning products, has optimised its supply network to maximise production, a spokeswoman said, and will continue to do everything it can to meet increased consumer demand. (Reporting by Tanishaa Nadkar and Siddharth Cavale in Bengaluru and James Davey in London; Additional reporting by Martinne Geller; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel and Jan Harvey and Kirsten Donovan)

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