Heartbreaking photo of elderly man looking at empty shop shelves

Heart-breaking picture of pensioner clutching shopping list in ransacked Sainsbury’s gives as glimpse of how the coronavirus crisis is hitting Britain’s elderly

  • Image captures the pensioner as he struggles to find essentials in a supermarket
  • Photo was taken by a concerned mother on Friday afternoon in Epsom, Surrey
  • Do you recognise this elderly man? Email [email protected]
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

A photo of an elderly man looking for supplies as he is surrounded by empty supermarket shelves has been widely shared online today to demonstrate the reality of coronavirus-fuelled panic-buying.  

Lauren Taylor, 34, took the heartbreaking image in the hope of encouraging the public to stop stockpiling and help take care of the older generation.

The mother-of-two snapped the picture in the Sainsbury’s near her home in Epsom, Surrey, at 1pm on Friday, when she spotted the elderly man struggling to find the items he needed.

Her picture has since racked up more than 200,000 likes on social media after being shared by her sister, Milli, 33, from south west London.

This photo of an elderly man looking for supplies as he is surrounded by empty supermarket shelves in Surrey, has been widely shared online today to demonstrate the reality of coronavirus-fuelled panic-buying

Lauren said: ‘It was awful and just really sad. That was only one aisle and the others were in a similar state of empty shelves.

‘People were grabbing lots of the stuff that were still on the shelves. It’s really just sad and disappointing in society that it’s got to this point. Everyone needs stuff, but he had been left with nothing.’

After taking the photo, Lauren shared it in a family WhatsApp group and sister, Milli, posted the image on Instagram where it racked up more than 200,000 likes.

Lauren said: ‘I didn’t expect it to go so viral. I just wanted to share it with my family who are dotted around the world to compare and prepare my sister for what she was coming back to after a holiday.

‘I just want people to think about their own grandparents who will have to go through more suffering. It must be scary for them.

Reaction: Social media users (pictured) said they were left heartbroken after seeing the devastating photograph

The image was captured by Lauren Taylor. After taking the photo, Lauren shared it in a family WhatsApp group and sister, Milli (pictured), posted the image on Instagram where it racked up more than 200,000 likes

‘If everyone just bought responsibly in the first place these issues wouldn’t have arose but if everyone buys double, it might be enough to empty the shelves.’

Caterer Milli added: ‘I was in Sri Lanka so hadn’t been watching the news and there were only two cases over there so it wasn’t really a talking point.

‘I thought the photo was shocking so I had to share it. I didn’t know what we were coming home to. It was pretty bleak. 

‘You have to be careful not to judge a full trolley because they might be shopping for a large family in isolation but it seems that people have been over buying and not thinking about everyone else that may be in the same or worse situation.’

It comes as panic-buying across the country intensifies today, with supermarkets under mounting pressure taking drastic rationing action in a bid to deal with the unprecedented demand for goods.

Worried shoppers rushed to enter Waitrose as the shop opened in Clapham Junction today

People queuing outside an Iceland store in Northwich which opened one hour early to allow elderly shoppers to buy food today

Britain’s grocery industry has struggled for over a week to keep shelves stocked in the face of stockpiling, which worsened on Tuesday despite weekend appeals for calm from supermarket bosses and politicians.

But experts have asked why supermarkets have introduced different limits on certain goods, creating confusion for customers and competition among rivals.

Sainsbury’s has announced it is closing its in-store meat, fish and pizza counters and cafes from tomorrow to free up lorry and warehouse capacity, as well as shelf-stacking time, for essential items to be replenished.

The supermarket will restrict people to only buying three of any single grocery item, in addition to a two-item limit on the most popular goods such as toilet paper and long-life milk which is already in place. From March 23, disabled customers and those over 70 will take priority for online delivery slots.

Supermarkets have taken different approaches to the virus, with Iceland failing to make clear what goods are restricted, while other stores have a stringent number of items that customers can buy 

The Tesco in Ely, Cambridgeshire closed overnight for the shelves to be re-stocked and there were huge queues outside the doors when it opened at 6am today. Just two hours later the supermarket had already run out of many essential household goods

Morrisons plans to create 3,500 new jobs and expand its home delivery operation to help it deal with coronavirus.

Aldi became the first UK grocer to introduce rationing, limiting customers to buying four items of any one product during each visit.

Tesco followed suit by limiting shoppers to five items, and Asda has introduced a limit of three items while Iceland will only open to elderly, vulnerable and disabled shoppers on Wednesday mornings.

Despite the stringent new measures, shelves at a Tesco supermarket in Ely, Cambridgeshire, were stripped bare just two hours after the store opened this morning.

And customers at an Asda Walmart in Waterlooville, Hampshire, were queuing outside the door at 6am this morning and within just one hour, shoppers claim shelves were empty as worried households continue to stockpile against government advice.

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS?

What is the coronavirus? 

A coronavirus is a type of virus which can cause illness in animals and people. Viruses break into cells inside their host and use them to reproduce itself and disrupt the body’s normal functions. Coronaviruses are named after the Latin word ‘corona’, which means crown, because they are encased by a spiked shell which resembles a royal crown.

The coronavirus from Wuhan is one which has never been seen before this outbreak. It has been named SARS-CoV-2 by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. The name stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2.

Experts say the bug, which has killed around one in 50 patients since the outbreak began in December, is a ‘sister’ of the SARS illness which hit China in 2002, so has been named after it.

The disease that the virus causes has been named COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019.

Dr Helena Maier, from the Pirbright Institute, said: ‘Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect a wide range of different species including humans, cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats and wild animals. 

‘Until this new coronavirus was identified, there were only six different coronaviruses known to infect humans. Four of these cause a mild common cold-type illness, but since 2002 there has been the emergence of two new coronaviruses that can infect humans and result in more severe disease (Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses). 

‘Coronaviruses are known to be able to occasionally jump from one species to another and that is what happened in the case of SARS, MERS and the new coronavirus. The animal origin of the new coronavirus is not yet known.’ 

The first human cases were publicly reported from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where approximately 11million people live, after medics first started publicly reporting infections on December 31.

By January 8, 59 suspected cases had been reported and seven people were in critical condition. Tests were developed for the new virus and recorded cases started to surge.

The first person died that week and, by January 16, two were dead and 41 cases were confirmed. The next day, scientists predicted that 1,700 people had become infected, possibly up to 7,000. 

Where does the virus come from?

According to scientists, the virus almost certainly came from bats. Coronaviruses in general tend to originate in animals – the similar SARS and MERS viruses are believed to have originated in civet cats and camels, respectively.

The first cases of COVID-19 came from people visiting or working in a live animal market in Wuhan, which has since been closed down for investigation.

Although the market is officially a seafood market, other dead and living animals were being sold there, including wolf cubs, salamanders, snakes, peacocks, porcupines and camel meat. 

A study by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, published in February 2020 in the scientific journal Nature, found that the genetic make-up virus samples found in patients in China is 96 per cent identical to a coronavirus they found in bats.

However, there were not many bats at the market so scientists say it was likely there was an animal which acted as a middle-man, contracting it from a bat before then transmitting it to a human. It has not yet been confirmed what type of animal this was.

Dr Michael Skinner, a virologist at Imperial College London, was not involved with the research but said: ‘The discovery definitely places the origin of nCoV in bats in China.

‘We still do not know whether another species served as an intermediate host to amplify the virus, and possibly even to bring it to the market, nor what species that host might have been.’  

So far the fatalities are quite low. Why are health experts so worried about it? 

Experts say the international community is concerned about the virus because so little is known about it and it appears to be spreading quickly.

It is similar to SARS, which infected 8,000 people and killed nearly 800 in an outbreak in Asia in 2003, in that it is a type of coronavirus which infects humans’ lungs. It is less deadly than SARS, however, which killed around one in 10 people, compared to approximately one in 50 for COVID-19.

Another reason for concern is that nobody has any immunity to the virus because they’ve never encountered it before. This means it may be able to cause more damage than viruses we come across often, like the flu or common cold.

Speaking at a briefing in January, Oxford University professor, Dr Peter Horby, said: ‘Novel viruses can spread much faster through the population than viruses which circulate all the time because we have no immunity to them.

‘Most seasonal flu viruses have a case fatality rate of less than one in 1,000 people. Here we’re talking about a virus where we don’t understand fully the severity spectrum but it’s possible the case fatality rate could be as high as two per cent.’

If the death rate is truly two per cent, that means two out of every 100 patients who get it will die. 

‘My feeling is it’s lower,’ Dr Horby added. ‘We’re probably missing this iceberg of milder cases. But that’s the current circumstance we’re in.

‘Two per cent case fatality rate is comparable to the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 so it is a significant concern globally.’

How does the virus spread?

The illness can spread between people just through coughs and sneezes, making it an extremely contagious infection. And it may also spread even before someone has symptoms.

It is believed to travel in the saliva and even through water in the eyes, therefore close contact, kissing, and sharing cutlery or utensils are all risky. It can also live on surfaces, such as plastic and steel, for up to 72 hours, meaning people can catch it by touching contaminated surfaces.

Originally, people were thought to be catching it from a live animal market in Wuhan city. But cases soon began to emerge in people who had never been there, which forced medics to realise it was spreading from person to person. 

What does the virus do to you? What are the symptoms?

Once someone has caught the COVID-19 virus it may take between two and 14 days, or even longer, for them to show any symptoms – but they may still be contagious during this time.

If and when they do become ill, typical signs include a runny nose, a cough, sore throat and a fever (high temperature). The vast majority of patients will recover from these without any issues, and many will need no medical help at all.

In a small group of patients, who seem mainly to be the elderly or those with long-term illnesses, it can lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection in which the insides of the lungs swell up and fill with fluid. It makes it increasingly difficult to breathe and, if left untreated, can be fatal and suffocate people.

Figures are showing that young children do not seem to be particularly badly affected by the virus, which they say is peculiar considering their susceptibility to flu, but it is not clear why. 

What have genetic tests revealed about the virus? 

Scientists in China have recorded the genetic sequences of around 19 strains of the virus and released them to experts working around the world. 

This allows others to study them, develop tests and potentially look into treating the illness they cause.   

Examinations have revealed the coronavirus did not change much – changing is known as mutating – much during the early stages of its spread.

However, the director-general of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, said the virus was mutating and adapting as it spread through people.

This means efforts to study the virus and to potentially control it may be made extra difficult because the virus might look different every time scientists analyse it.   

More study may be able to reveal whether the virus first infected a small number of people then change and spread from them, or whether there were various versions of the virus coming from animals which have developed separately.

How dangerous is the virus?  

The virus has a death rate of around two per cent. This is a similar death rate to the Spanish Flu outbreak which, in 1918, went on to kill around 50million people.

Experts have been conflicted since the beginning of the outbreak about whether the true number of people who are infected is significantly higher than the official numbers of recorded cases. Some people are expected to have such mild symptoms that they never even realise they are ill unless they’re tested, so only the more serious cases get discovered, making the death toll seem higher than it really is.

However, an investigation into government surveillance in China said it had found no reason to believe this was true.

Dr Bruce Aylward, a World Health Organization official who went on a mission to China, said there was no evidence that figures were only showing the tip of the iceberg, and said recording appeared to be accurate, Stat News reported.

Can the virus be cured? 

The COVID-19 virus cannot be cured and it is proving difficult to contain.

Antibiotics do not work against viruses, so they are out of the question. Antiviral drugs can work, but the process of understanding a virus then developing and producing drugs to treat it would take years and huge amounts of money.

No vaccine exists for the coronavirus yet and it’s not likely one will be developed in time to be of any use in this outbreak, for similar reasons to the above.

The National Institutes of Health in the US, and Baylor University in Waco, Texas, say they are working on a vaccine based on what they know about coronaviruses in general, using information from the SARS outbreak. But this may take a year or more to develop, according to Pharmaceutical Technology.

Currently, governments and health authorities are working to contain the virus and to care for patients who are sick and stop them infecting other people.

People who catch the illness are being quarantined in hospitals, where their symptoms can be treated and they will be away from the uninfected public.

And airports around the world are putting in place screening measures such as having doctors on-site, taking people’s temperatures to check for fevers and using thermal screening to spot those who might be ill (infection causes a raised temperature).

However, it can take weeks for symptoms to appear, so there is only a small likelihood that patients will be spotted up in an airport.

Is this outbreak an epidemic or a pandemic?   

The outbreak was declared a pandemic on March 11. A pandemic is defined by the World Health Organization as the ‘worldwide spread of a new disease’. 

Previously, the UN agency said most cases outside of Hubei had been ‘spillover’ from the epicentre, so the disease wasn’t actually spreading actively around the world.

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