SAINSBURY'S is the first supermarket to lift buying limits on thousands of products.

Panic buying had placed supermarkets across the country under enormous pressure as Covid-19 spread across the country, with many supermarket websites crashing in the hours after Boris Johnson announced a lockdown two weeks ago.

Sainsbury's put a cap on its products, limiting them to three-per-customer, with more sought after essentials such as toilet roll, tinned goods, bread and milk, being limited to two.

It came as Tesco said most customers would still need to visit stores to buy food because there were not enough online delivery slots to meet demand, despite capacity being increased by more than 20 per cent.

Sainsbury's CEO Mike Coupe wrote to customers today to say: "You wrote to tell me that product limits were a barrier to being able to shop for other people.

"We understand that it can be difficult to buy what you need and shop for someone else with the 3 item product limit.

"We have now lifted buying restrictions on thousands of products and hope that this will help more of you to shop for others."

Sainsbury's appears to be the first supermarket to make the move, with Asda and Tesco still keeping three or two product limits, while Waitrose is running a slightly scaled back rationing scheme.

The CEO assured customers stock levels had improved in stores, adding: "We are keeping limits on the most popular items for now, including pasta, UHT milk, antibacterial products and some tinned and frozen foods."

The company claims it has offered around 500,000 elderely and vulnerable customers priority bookings for online delivery in England, Mr Coupe said it was waiting for more information from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland so it could contact more vulnerable people.

He added: "We know many elderly and vulnerable people who need to self-isolate are relying on the kindness of family, friends and local communities to shop on their behalf and we encourage this."

Tesco said that after "significant panic buying" in the first few weeks of the pandemic its stocks had now returned to normal.

However, its chief executive, Dave Lewis, said that a shortage of online delivery capacity meant that the vast majority of food would still have to be bought from bricks and mortar stores.

"Between 85 per cent and 90 per cent of all food bought will require a visit to a store and here significant changes to the store environment have been implemented to maximise safety for colleagues and customers," he said