There were queues outside stores such as Asda in Boldon and Morrisons in Seaburn this morning, Thursday, March 26, with shoppers waiting patiently to be allowed inside.
Supermarket chains have introduced stricter measures for the safety of staff and customers as they respond to the crisis.
Sainsbury's, Tesco and Asda are limiting the number of shoppers allowed into stores at any given time.
In a letter to customers, Tesco boss Dave Lewis outlined measures including new floor markings in the checkout areas, protective screens on checkouts, and one-way aisles.
"Our social distancing plans aim to protect customers from the moment they enter our car parks, to browsing products, to paying and finally exiting our stores," he wrote.
Sainsbury's chief executive Mike Coupe urged customers to spread visits throughout the day to avoid long queues in the morning, and encouraged people to pay by card.
The firm is prioritising elderly, disabled and vulnerable customers for delivery orders.
Asda has also introduced changes, including markers on the floor to help customers keep two metres apart, barriers, signs and announcements.
Lloyds Pharmacy has adopted a strict two-in two-out policy.
"We are asking customers to be a little more tolerant of waiting times and, at times, this may mean waiting outside the pharmacy," said chief executive Toby Anderson.
Lidl has announced it will install new donation boxes in store to collect for vulnerable families.