TESCO and Morrisons have brought back rationing to essential products as shoppers expressed “absolute disbelief” after seeing some supermarket shelves emptying once more ahead of a second national lockdown in England.

Despite the fact food stores will be allowed to stay open during England's lockdown, there have been pockets of panic-buying incidents throughout the country.

A number of social media users shared pictures as apparent panic buying began to take hold once more ahead of the new restrictions on Thursday, despite the stores insisting there was plenty of stock to go round.

At the weekend, long queues were spotted in Edinburgh's IKEA store with customesr reportedly forced to wait over 20 minutes to be served at the till.

On a tweet, @Barriestweeting said: "If by any chance you have it in your mind to visit @IKEAUK today....don’t do it! Current queue situation at Straiton 20 minutes waiting to get to the till."

Images taken by one shopper showed the queues stretching a huge distance away from the shop's exit, with people lining up on a trail that seemed to stretch all the way around the warehouse.

England is heading for another national lockdown on Thursday, with all non essential shops closing, as well as pubs and restaurants.

Back in March, supermarket shelves were stripped bare of essentials such as toilet roll, pasta and bread when the UK entered lockdown for the first time.

Ahead of the UK-wide lockdown in March, a number of supermarkets introduced limits on purchases of key items to counter the effects of stockpiling.

Now to prevent this from happening, some supermarkets have begun restricting certain items to stop people from buying much more than they need.

Morrisons and Tesco have reintroduced measures in recent weeks as the rate of the virus’ spread increased – using policies such as three items per customer on some products.

Social media posts showed the dearth in essentials affecting a variety of other supermarkets, including Tesco, Morrisons, and Sainsbury’s.

Morrisons began limiting a range of items last week, including toilet roll, bleach, disinfectant and soap, with customers only allowed to buy three of each product at once.

There is also a limit on sales of larger packs of flour, rice and oil, which are sold in its world foods aisle.

A spokesperson for the supermarket said: “We are introducing a limit on a small number of key products, such as toilet roll and disinfectant.

“Our stock levels of these products are good but we want to ensure that they are available for everyone.”

Morrisons added that there were plenty of products ‘available for everyone’, so shoppers shouldn’t panic.

Tesco introduced restrictions on a certain number of items and said on Friday that it will be limiting purchases of flour, pasta, baby wipes, antibacterial wipes and toilet paper to three per customer.

Many online sales will also be limited on products including rice and tinned vegetables.

A spokesperson said: “We have good availability, with plenty of stock to go round and we would encourage our customers to shop as normal.”

Tesco bosses have urged people to do their Christmas shopping "earlier than usual" this year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The supermarket giant’s chief executive Jason Tarry has written to customers reminding them of the rules when they visit stores amid a tightening of restrictions across the country.

Mr Tarry has urged customers not to buy more than they should and has insisted that stock levels remain "good" in the run up to the festive season.

In a letter to customers he said:“As the festive season approaches, it’s always busier for our store, so please consider shopping a little earlier than you usually would, to avoid the peak festive period.”

Tesco has also installed a ‘traffic light’ system in some of its larger stores to help manage customer numbers.

Sainsbury's, Asda, Aldi and Lidl said they had no plans to bring in any limits or restrictions yet.

Asda said it was "not seeing any evidence of 'panic buying' at the moment".

Ratula Chakraborty, professor of business management at the University of East Anglia (UEA), said it is unclear how widespread the issue of panic buying is but it could “spiral out of control” without intervention.

“Unfortunately, some customers are going crazy in grabbing everything they can to put in their trolleys… in turn, this is encouraging copycat behaviour by other shoppers,” she said.

Meanwhile shoppers at Marks and Spencer can beat the supermarket queues by booking a timed slot to enter the chain's food halls.

Dubbed 'Sparks Book and Shop', M&S shoppers with or without a Sparks loyalty card can now visit its website and book a guaranteed time slot to shop at their local store without having to queue.

After a trial across 80 stores in Scotland and Wales, the scheme is now available to use across all M&S's 566 food halls and larger stores containing food halls.