Lidl and Tesco are to introduce dedicated shopping hours for older and vulnerable customers.

The German discount retailer will prioritise elderly customers from 9am to 11am each day starting tomorrow. There will be prioritised queuing and additional assistance in-store for customers.

Lidl says the measure is to help protect more vulnerable shoppers due to increased demand and has asked all customers to respect the dedicated shopping hours each morning.

A run of coronavirus panic-buying has gripped several countries, emptying shelves of basic goods despite pleas by authorities to stop.

Experts have warned the phenomenon has hit the most vulnerable the hardest, including the elderly and those with disabilities who cannot get to shops every day or are afraid to brave thronged stores.

According to studies of Covid-19 in China, mortality rates are considerably higher for those over 60 or with pre-existing medical conditions.

Lidl Managing Director JP Scally has said "it is our responsibility to to look after the more vulnerable in society in these challenging times".

Scally also said that there is enough stock in Lidl's supply chains despite "stronger customer numbers in recent days".

Mr Scally said, there is enough stock in our supply chain for everyone".

Tesco Ireland later announced a similar measure, promising "dedicated access" to over 65s on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings before 9am, starting this Wednesday.

Tesco stores open at 7am or 8am, every morning, depending on location.

A Northern Ireland branch of the supermarket chain Iceland has announced a similar move.

Read more: Supermarkets - No need for consumers to panic buy

Meanwhile, the Irish Petroleum Industry Association (IPIA) has moved to reassure consumers that there will be no interruption in the supply of petrol, diesel and home-heating oil, to consumers or emergency vehicles, throughout the Covid-19 delay period and beyond.

The IPIA said their members, who provide 50% of the energy consumed in Ireland, have already put in place health and safety procedures in their service station shops to ensure the safety of their 13,000 workers and customers.

IPIA CEO Kevin McPartlan said: "The way we operate has to change to protect our staff and our customers but the products we supply will remain available throughout. We will continue providing essential services: heating Ireland's homes, fueling businesses and keeping transport on the move.  We are asking everyone to follow the advice from the HSE and relevant authorities."