Coronavirus: Calls for priority shopping deliveries for NI elderly

By Peter Coulter

Geraldine Herdman-Grant and her husband James PrattImage source, GERALDINE HERDMAN-GRANT
Image caption,
Geraldine Herdman-Grant and her husband James Pratt have been getting up during the night to try to secure a delivery slot

Elderly people who are self-isolating have expressed their frustration at not being able to secure a supermarket shopping delivery.

Some online delivery slots are booked up to three weeks in advance.

In England, those isolating can register on a government site to get priority delivery but it is not available in Northern Ireland.

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey said Northern Ireland was more "complex".

The Department for Communities has announced it will provide food parcels to those most in need.

Speaking on Good Morning Ulster, Ms Hargey said her department and the Department of Health were trying to liaise with retailers.

She said Northern Ireland relies on multiple databases in comparison to England where relevant information is stored on a single database.

"We are working with retailers and asking them to respond to urgent need," she said.

"It is more difficult and it will take a while longer to create a system local supermarkets could avail of."

'Incredibly stressful'

Geraldine Herdman-Grant and her husband, James, live just outside Enniskillen, County Fermanagh. They have struggled to get a regular delivery slot.

James, 76, has a serious lung condition, which puts him in the high-risk bracket, and he received a letter from the government saying he has to self-isolate for 12 weeks.

The couple have no family close by and have struggled to get a regular delivery from any of their local supermarkets.

Their last delivery was on 17 March and they have one due later this week.

"It's incredibly stressful," said Ms Herdman-Grant.

"I get up at 02:30am, as the slots usually go live between then and 04:00, to try and get a delivery for a few weeks time."

Image source, VICTOR RUSSELL
Image caption,
Victor Russell was advised to register for priority shopping online but later found that it didn't apply to Northern Ireland

Victor Russell is in a similar position. He has received a government letter advising him not to leave the house for his own health.

"I have a friend in Devon who has a weekly delivery slot with Sainsbury's now, as he was able to register," he said.

"I phoned Tesco to try and get one and they told me to register on the website but when you try to do that it doesn't apply to Northern Ireland."

Ms Herdman-Grant and Mr Russell have both written to their local MLAs asking them to introduce a similar system to that in England.

On Sunday, Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey, announced that 10,000 food parcels would be delivered to those most in need later this week.

"I think this is wonderful for those who need it," said Ms Herdman-Grant.

"I've always been very independent and we would be ok if we were just able to get a regular delivery slot.

"The system exists in England so I don't see why they can't introduce it here."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Tesco have said that those who do not require a home delivery should come to the store to free up slots for those more in need

A Tesco spokesperson said the company was "doing everything we can to increase capacity in our online operations, so that everyone can access the food they need".

"We're asking customers that can to please shop in store so that we can prioritise those that need to stay at home."

A spokesperson for Sainsbury's said that the elderly or vulnerable in Northern Ireland should phone to secure a priority slot.

"We are prioritising as many orders from elderly and vulnerable customers as possible and experiencing extremely high demand for this service," said the spokesperson.

"We are giving thousands of additional slots to customers over the phone every day and urge anyone who believes they are eligible to keep trying."