UPDATE 1-UK online supermarket Ocado says coronavirus boosting demand

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LONDON, March 19 (Reuters) - British online supermarket Ocado said growth in the last three weeks was double that of its first quarter, as panicked shoppers stock up on goods ahead of an expected shutdown to tackle the coronavirus.

The pioneer of online shopping said it had been forced to stop registrations from new customers and impose a queuing system online after it saw a several hundred percentage increase in web traffic.

Customers were also spending more and buying more ambient goods. The government has so far shut schools and advised people to avoid pubs, restaurants and theatres but it has warned it is ready to adopt more stringent measures to curb the outbreak.

Ocado said its guidance for Retail Revenue growth in full-year 2020 of 10-15% was unchanged, at this point, as it believes there is a large element of forward buying, leading to disruption further down the line.

“The impact of higher basket values and order demand, amid growing public concern over the Coronavirus, was limited in the quarter, although this has since picked up significantly and growth in the second quarter is so far double that of the first quarter,” Ocado Retail’s Chief Executive Melanie Smith said. (Reporting by Sarah Young and Kate Holton; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)