Australia's major supermarket chains have banded together to plead with customers to be considerate. Image by Danny Casey/AAP PHOTOS

Health

Do not hoard, PM tells grocery shoppers

2020-03-19 14:21:17

Stop hoarding.

That’s the blunt message from the prime minister to Australians in response to the mass panic buying sparked by the coronavirus.

“It is not sensible, it is not helpful and, I’ve got to say, it has been one of the most disappointing things I have seen in Australian behaviour in response to this crisis,” Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

“There is no reason for people to be hoarding supplies from fear of a lockdown or anything like this.”

Bad behaviour and people emptying supermarket shelves are distracting officials’ attention and diverting important resources to keeping supply lines open, he said.

Senior medical officials advise that bulk-buying of food and other supplies is not necessary.

Australia’s major supermarket chains also banded together to plead with customers to be considerate of each other and stop abusing staff.

The call made in newspaper advertisements across the country came after more footage emerged online of customers verbally attacking retail staff because they couldn’t find the goods they wanted.

Aldi, Coles, IGA and Woolworths said they were doing everything they could to get as much produce on the shelves as possible, often under difficult circumstances.

“We understand your concerns, but if you buy only what you need and stick to the product limits it helps everyone, especially the elderly and people with disability,” the ad says.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese’s son works in a major supermarket and has relayed stories about staff getting yelled at over product shortages.

“Nineteen-year-old kids aren’t responsible for the fact there is no toilet paper in the aisles,” Mr Albanese told reporters.

Labor is calling for local councils to lift truck delivery curfews to help supermarkets restock.

Coles on Wednesday morning held its first “community hour” for seniors and pension card holders before opening to everyone else.

People with government-issued concession cards on Tuesday flocked to Woolworths which implemented a similar measure, and IGA is considering whether to roll out the same.

Coles wants to employ more than 5000 casual workers to help restock its supermarkets quicker under a fast-tracked induction process, and will hire more Coles Online delivery van drivers.

Panic-buying sparked by the spread of coronavirus has seen supermarkets stripped of toilet paper, pasta, rice and frozen food, as well as tinned and other dried goods.

The issue has caused stress and frustration among elderly shoppers, many of whom find it difficult to make frequent visits to supermarkets for essential goods.

Woolworths fresh food director Paul Harker said there was no shortage of goods in Australia but it was a logistics puzzle to get products to stores in line with the pace of demand.