Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is urging people to stop stockpiling goods in response to the deadly coronavirus.
He stressed it wasn’t necessary and neither was routinely wearing face masks.
“I don’t want to be critical of people who may be frightened, that doesn’t help anything. But I would just say, we are not at a point where people need to be stockpiling,” Mr Andrews told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday.
“Nor are we are at a point where people need to be routinely wearing masks.
“There’s always a limit to the number of masks any one jurisdiction has. To be using masks now, potentially means that when they are actually needed, we won’t have enough.”
Victorian Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said “panic buying” had emerged as there wasn’t enough public information about the virus in the state.
“Victorians need to know the truth. We need to know how to keep ourselves safe. We need to know what the impact of this coronavirus could be,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
“Because if you (Mr Andrews) don’t tell us, people are going to start panicking, and we’re already seeing that in terms of panic-buying on supermarket shelves.”
The comments come as the state government has given $6 million to Melbourne’s Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity to help speed up the development of vaccines and treatments for the virus.
The institute, whose scientists were the first outside of China to recreate the virus, is working alongside the Burnet Institute and other experts.
There have been nine confirmed cases of the condition in Victoria, and 33 across Australia.
Victoria’s chief medical officer Professor Brett Sutton told cabinet on Monday the state was well-prepared for dealing with the virus.
But the Victorian government is poised to ramp up public communications about preventing infection and providing different models of care to reduce exposure, such as telehealth, if it needs to.
It could also increase space in hospitals for urgent care by considering the delay of non-urgent care or procedures, such as elective surgery.
“We’re not there yet, but just to be clear with people, that may well be an outcome,” Mr Andrews said.
The Jack Ma Foundation has also given $3.2 million to the Doherty Institute to speed up coronavirus vaccine development.