Coronavirus: Shoplifting suspect arrested after coughing on staff and claiming to be infected

Joe Gamp
Contributor, Yahoo News UK
Police say a 57-year-old male was detained on suspicion of theft and assault in Dudley, West Midlands, on Thursday afternoon. (Getty Images)

A man suspected of shoplifting has been arrested after coughing on store staff and claiming to be infected with coronavirus.

According to police, a 57-year-old male was detained on suspicion of theft and assault in Dudley, West Midlands, on Thursday afternoon.

Officers were called to Dudley High Street after several people reported a man coughing on shop staff, who had approached him on suspicion of stealing.

In a statement, West Midlands Police said: “The man, who is from Dudley and has suspected mental health issues, has been taken into custody and will be questioned in due course.

Supermarkets across the UK have introduced limits on purchases during the Covid-19 pandemic to curb chaotic panic buying. (Getty Images)

“Those affected have been given appropriate advice and referred to the non-emergency NHS helpline for further support and guidance.”

On Thursday, the number of coronavirus deaths in the UK rose to 137, with 2,692 confirmed cases.

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The figures saw an increase of 33 from Wednesday’s death toll of 104.

Across the country, supermarket shelves lay empty as Brits prepare for self-isolation, which has led to scenes of chaos in UK stores.

Panicked shoppers spent an extra £57.3 million on items for “stockpiling” including medicines, hand wash and canned food in the first week of March compared to the previous week as pandemic panic set in, according to The Grocer.

A graph showing the number of global coronavirus cases. (PA)

Amid the rush, environment secretary George Eustace said there was “significant resilience in our food supply chain” and no shortage of food.

He told the Commons: “There isn’t a shortage of food, the challenge that we’ve had is getting food to shelves in time when people have been purchasing more.”

Read more: Young people far more likely to be panic buying than pensioners, poll shows

Meanwhile, supermarkets in the UK responded to shelves being rapidly cleared of stock by introducing measures to help the elderly and vulnerable.

A woman wearing a mask buys toilet paper at a supermarket in London, amid consumers panic-buying due to worries on product shortages. (Getty Images)

Sainsbury’s said it would only allow customers to buy a maximum of three of any single item, while Morrisons said it is limiting purchases across 1,250 lines.

Asda also announced it is restricting shoppers to three items on all food and closing its cafes and pizza counters, while temporarily reducing the opening hours of all its 24-hour stores for re-stocking.

Read more: Coronavirus: Customer steps in to offer jobs to restaurant staff out of work

Tesco said shoppers will be limited to buying just three products per line from Thursday.

All of the chain’s stores that previously opened 24 hours will also now close at 10pm each evening.

Early shoppers queue and wait in line for the opening of a supermarket in Rugby, England. (AP)

At Marks & Spencer, the first hour of trading on Friday will be set aside for vulnerable customers, and from next week will happen every Monday and Thursday.

Meanwhile, the first hour on Tuesdays and Fridays have been set aside for NHS staff and emergency workers.

Aldi has already introduced limits of four items per shopper across all products.

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