The government has temporarily relaxed elements of competition law for supermarkets to ensure they can share data with each other on stock levels, co-operate to keep shops open, or share distribution depots and delivery vans.
The government said that it would also allow retailers to pool staff with one another to help meet demand.
Drivers’ hours rules have temporarily been relaxed and the government is also waiving the 5p plastic bag charge for online purchases to speed up deliveries.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “By relaxing elements of competition laws temporarily, our retailers can work together on their contingency plans and share the resources they need with each other during these unprecedented circumstances.
“We welcome the measures supermarkets are already taking to keep shelves stocked and supply chains resilient, and will continue to support them with their response to coronavirus.”
Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium,said: “Retailers have been working hard to ensure shelves are stocked and this is an exceptional step taken by government to help retailers and their suppliers cope with problems that might be caused by widescale absences across the supply chain.
“This is a short-term measure, in the spirit of working together, and will allow retailers to agree common specifications for products to bolster food production, and co-ordinate certain operations to ensure customers anywhere in the UK have access to the essential items they need.”