Panic buying returns to Australia amid Covid fears

Publish Date
Fri, 26 Jun 2020, 5:08PM
It might look like old photos from March, but this was taken in Berkeley Coles just 12 hours ago. Picture: FacebookSource:Facebook

Panic buying returns to Australia amid Covid fears

Publish Date
Fri, 26 Jun 2020, 5:08PM

Scott Morrison has issued a stern message to panic buyers after Australian supermarkets implemented new purchase limits on toilet paper at all stores across the country.

Supermarket shelves have been stripped of the bathroom essential once again amid fears of a second wave of coronavirus.

Morrison branded the behaviour “ridiculous” and called on those guilty of buying more than they need to “stop it”.

“The same as last time. Stop it, it’s ridiculous,” he said, adding “restrictions have been put in place” to deal with the issue.

“I’m sure it will pass as it did last time and there’s no need for it and I think, today, it’s important to reassure people the outbreak doesn’t mean there’s a problem.”

He went on to describe the response to recent outbreak in Melbourne – which has seen another 30 confirmed cases today – as “strong” and reassured Australians to “have confidence”.

Mr Morrison’s message followed announcements from Coles and Woolworths that new restrictions had been applied on toilet paper and paper towel in all stores nationwide.

Shoppers at all Coles supermarkets and Coles Express stores as well as the retailer’s online store will only be able to purchase one pack of toilet paper and paper towel.

The additional two per customer limits on hand sanitiser, flour, sugar, pasta, mince, UHT milk, eggs and rice in Victoria still apply.

Woolworths has followed suit, reinstating the previously axed limit on toilet paper and paper towel at all stores, citing a “recent surge in demand across different parts of the country”. Shoppers can now purchase two packs per customer.

Woolies’ limits of two items per shopper on hand sanitiser, flour, sugar, pasta, mince, UHT milk, eggs and rice still apply in Victoria.

Despite the bold move, Coles have urged customers to “shop normally so that everyone can have access to the food and groceries they need”.

Woolworths have called the decision a “preventative” measure “to get ahead of any excessive buying this weekend and help maintain social distancing in our stores”.

Sydney shoppers yesterday began sharing snaps of empty toilet paper shelves, hot on the heels of similar sights appearing in Melbourne earlier this week.

“So, came back from Coles...and they’re running out of toilet Sydney,” one frustrated person wrote on Twitter yesterday.

“FYI Winston Hills Woolworths is nearly out of toilet paper. One of the workers told me that people are starting to panic buy again. The fear is kicking in again,” another said.

“I popped into Coles earlier (in a suburb in Sydney) and I did notice a disproportionate number of customers buying packs of toilet paper...” someone else wrote.

“In my part of NSW both @woolworths & @Coles have run out of toilet paper this evening,” another said.

Hours earlier, reported the resurgence appeared to be spreading beyond Victoria’s borders to New South Wales and potentially South Australia.

Woolworths told last night there had been a spike in demand in NSW, but it was modest and not state wide.

“We’ve seen pockets of higher than usual demand for toilet roll across parts of NSW today, but not anywhere near the levels we saw in Victoria,” a spokesman said.

“We’ll keep a close eye on demand over the coming days. We continue to ask customers to buy only what they need, as there is plenty of stock to replenish our shelves.”

A customer at a Woolworths in Gosford on the NSW Central Coast said she was surprised when she saw the once again diminished shelves.

“An elderly gentleman was just looking at the half empty shelf and said to me ‘here we go again’.

“I think it‘s ridiculous what’s happening. We’ve had no or very little community transmission and at the moment we have no reason to think we’re going into lockdown.

“It’s disappointing to think we could head down that panic-buying road again. We should have learned from the last time.”

Another shopper reported “hoarding” was occurring in Coles Merrylands too, sharing a photo of the nearly empty toilet roll shelves.

While there were also reports from concerned shoppers in SA who said “even in Adelaide panic buying is happening”.

Demand for essential items began to spike in Melbourne after the Victorian Government singled out the city as being at a heightened risk of coronavirus transmission. Today, Victoria recorded 30 new cases, after yesterday’s 33, the biggest rise in cases since April 7.

Premier Daniel Andrews warned numbers would continue to increase in the coming days as authorities test “entire suburbs”.

Both Coles and Woolworths have continued to urge shoppers to “only buy what they need” following the scenes of chaos across the country when Australia was caught in the grip of extreme grocery shortages after The World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 a pandemic.