Shoppers waited as long as three hours in "insane" supermarket queues as Britons stocked up for Easter during the coronavirus lockdown.

Long lines snaked through car parks on Good Friday as customers were forced to stay at least two metres apart and stores limited the number of people allowed inside due to social distancing rules.

With many stores closed on Sunday, queues at some shops formed an hour before they opened and had hundreds of customers, and some shoppers said they gave up or didn't bother at all because the wait was so long.

Britons are facing an unprecedented Easter bank holiday weekend thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic and a lockdown that is now in its third week and set to be extended.

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Shoppers queue early on Good Friday morning around the car park at an Asda in Hollingbury, Brighton

A Twitter user in West Sussex wrote: "@Tesco I've just been speaking to someone who has just finished a 12 hour shift on a Covid ward.

"She is in a 3-hour queue to get into your Crawley store.

"She is not allowed to jump the queue. How is that OK?"

Shoppers wait next to a road outside a Morrisons in Seaburn, South Tyneside
A queue winds its way past a bus stop near a supermarket in London

A Tesco worker replied: "Although we ask our security to stick to the rules, we would also expect them to use common sense in times like these and let them through.

"I will contact the store if you let me know which one it is."

A man in Birmingham wrote: "Queues at the supermarkets this weekend are giving me anxiety!

Dozens of shoppers wait to enter an Asda in Clapham, south London

"Looked like 2-3 hour+ queues at Asda and Sainsbury’s near me.

"Hope it’s just for Easter weekend and normal service resumes shortly."

A woman in London wrote: "Thank goodness I don't need any more shopping now until next week.

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Coronavirus outbreak

"It's literally taken 2 hours to get a few essential bits in my local Sainsbury's and Waitrose.

"The last time I saw queues that long, I was outside Madame Tussauds during the school holidays."

And another added: "Waited in a queue at the butchers for way over an hour, all because I wanted lamb for Easter."

Huge queues form outside the Sainsbury's store in Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne
Customers queue at a Sainsbury's in Hove ahead of the Easter bank holiday weekend

A woman in Scotland tweeted: "Well folk seem determined to 'overshot' for Easter. The queue is all the way round our local Tesco’s very large car park #GoodsFriday."

Photos posted on social media showed queues stretching well into car parks where barriers were set up to keep things orderly.

In Cwmbran in South Wales, a man who posted a photo of shoppers waiting to enter an Aldi wrote: "Queue for Aldi is insane mind."

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Easter 2020 supermarket opening times

Pictures showed shoppers queing in a car park outside an Asda in Brighton, East Sussex, long lines outside a Morrisons in Seaburn, South Tyneside, and similar scenes at a Sainsbury's store in Heaton, Newcastle.

Shoppers told to expect long queues

Families have been warned that queues to get into supermarkets might be even longer than usual on Saturday, as a result of Sunday trading laws.

Shops in England and Wales - but not Scotland - have to shut their doors on Easter Sunday and Christmas day if they're over 280 square metres in size.

Shoppers are required to stay at least two metres apart (pictured: a Sainsbury's in Leeds)

And these rules apply coronavirus or not - meaning even more families than usual will need to stock up on essentials this Saturday.

To make matters even worse, Friday and Monday count as "Sundays" thanks to their bank holiday status over Easter - meaning big shops are operating reduced hours on those days too.

Throw coronavirus restrictions on the number of people allowed into shops at once and you have a recipe for the mother of all queues.

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Coronavirus supermarket changes

On a normal Sunday big shops can open for six hours, between 10am and 6pm.

This weekend, those restrictions apply to Friday and Monday, while shops over a certain size must close entirely on Sunday.

Then there are additional hours reductions as a result of coronavirus.

Some shops are closing earlier so staff have more time to restock shelves.

Police face criticism for patrolling supermarkets

A police force is facing criticism after its officers patrolled a Tesco and found that "the non-essential aisles were empty".

Cambridgeshire Police officers visited the supermarket just a day after Northamptonshire's chief constable faced a backlash for suggesting officers could search shopping trolleys if people kept flouting social distancing rules.

Home Secretary Priti Patel hit back and said checking supermarket trolleys is "not appropriate".

A Cambridgeshire Police vehicle outside a Tesco on Friday morning

On Friday morning, officers attended a Tesco in Bar Hill, Cambridgeshire, and checked "non-essential" aisles, according to a post on Twitter, where one user wrote back: "Sounds like non essential policing."

Cambridgeshire Police blamed an "overexuberant officer" who "has been spoken to" after sending the since-deleted tweet, and insisted "we are not monitoring what people are buying from supermarkets".

The Cambridge team tweeted: "Officers visited Tesco Barhill this morning as part of their patrols around supermarkets and green spaces this weekend.

"Good to see everyone was abiding by social distancing measures and the non essential aisles were empty."

The tweet included a photo of a police vehicle parked in front of the Tesco shop.

But the post was quickly met with criticism from Twitter users.

Downing Street said shops that are allowed to remain open during the lockdown are free to sell whatever items they have in stock.

Asked about the idea of police patrolling particular supermarket aisles to see what people are buying, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We set out a list of shops which could remain open and if the shops are on that list then they are free to sell whatever they have in stock.

"Obviously provided it's legal to do so."