Coronavirus quarantines are starting to place pressure on ecommerce companies like Amazon as people increasingly turn to online shopping. In response, Amazon has announced that it will no longer ship what it considers to be non-essential items in France and Italy.
“We will temporarily stop taking orders on some non-essential products on Amazon.it and Amazon.fr,” the company said in a statement to Reuters. “This lets fulfillment center associates focus on receiving and shipping the products customers need most at this time.”
As with many companies that offer some kind of delivery, Amazon has seen a sharp increase in orders since COVID-19 exploded across Italy and France announced a 15-day quarantine period last week. With millions of people confined to their homes, the pandemic is testing the digital infrastructure, forcing several streaming services to lower their bitrates to ease congestion.
But that strain is starting to be felt on the physical side, as well. In France, grocery chains such as Monoprix and Carrefour have been struggling to keep up with demand for grocery deliveries and have been reminding shoppers that their stores remain well stocked and open.
Workers on the front lines are also growing anxious. Last week, more than 250 workers at an Amazon distribution center in Saran, France staged a protest against pressure they felt to stay at work even as the rest of the country was under quarantine. According to Reuters, the employees wanted Amazon to either close the distribution center or make it easier for more employees to work from home.
The situation prompted criticism from France’s Economic Minister Bruno Le Maire. In a radio interview, Le Maire said, “These pressures are unacceptable — we’ll let Amazon know.”
Part of the employees’ argument was that many of the items they were packing were not groceries, and therefore not immediately essential.
The latest announcement suggests Amazon has responded to those concerns. The company said it would continue delivery of products related to babies, health, household items, beauty care, pets, and — of course — groceries.