New product limits to stymy panic buying

Shoppers fearful of a second wave of COVID-19 have already started panic buying essential items in Victorian supermarkets. In response, supermarkets have immediately reinstated product limits on popular items that were stripped from shelves in the first wave.

Supermarkets in coronavirus ‘hotspots’ are already witnessing the onset of a second round of panic buying of items such as toilet paper and hand sanitiser.

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) identified outbreaks in the local government areas of Hume, Casey, Brimbank, Moreland, Cardinia and Darebin.

“The AHPPC strongly discourages travel to and from those areas until control of community transmission has been confirmed,” said the committee.

The announcement has caused concern in those areas, with some people saying on social media that they fear another extended lockdown period and the resulting panic buying, according to a Yahoo News report.

“We are worried we may have to go into another eight-week lockdown so stupid people are panic buying,” one woman commented on Facebook.

Appalled at the “selfish” actions of panic buying shoppers, social media users were quick to slam these shoppers, blaming the first wave of product shortages and the difficulties created for less able people on these “stupid shoppers”.

“Just great! The greedy b******s are up for round two it seems and leaves none for others. Why can’t people just buy their weekly worth as normal,” one Facebook user wrote.

“No one has learned anything from the first lockdown. Went stupid when restrictions were lifted and spread the virus around, now panicking,” wrote another.

“The stupidity of some people is unbelievable,” wrote a third.

And it’s not just supermarkets in the red zone that are seeing irresponsible shoppers starting to bulk buy. A woman was filmed packing 12 bulk packs of toilet paper into her car in Springvale – which is not even listed as a coronavirus hotspot.

“I deadset thought corona hoarding was over. We’ve just seen this lady come and put five bags of toilet paper in her car. She’s gone back into the supermarket and come back with another seven,” said a woman who filmed another woman in Springvale packing 12 bulk packs of toilet paper into her car.

“Deadset, what is this woman doing? Pretty sure coronavirus doesn’t give you the s***s.”

In response to the onset of panic buying, major supermarkets Woolworths and Coles have both announced product limits and measures to protect the health and safety of customers.

On the back of a “handful” of stores that had experienced higher demand on Tuesday, Woolworths on Wednesday announced the first round of product limits.

“We’ve seen elevated demand for toilet rolls in a handful of Melbourne stores,” said a Woolworths spokesperson.

“We have plenty of stock to draw on in our distribution centres and will replenish shelves in those stores quickly.

“We’ll continue to keep a close eye on stock levels in the coming days and ask customers to buy only what they need.”

Restrictions now apply to toilet paper, hand sanitiser, paper towel, flour, sugar, pasta, mince, UHT milk, eggs and rice and the company will now also reinforce social distancing rules in stores.

“While we have healthy stock levels to draw on, we’re taking this precautionary step to help prevent excessive buying and support appropriate social distancing in our Victorian stores,” said Woolworths Supermarket managing director Claire Peters.

“We have more than enough product for all of our customers if we all just buy what we need in our weekly shop.

“We’ll closely monitor demand across Victoria in the coming days and look to wind back the limits as soon as we can.”

Coles has also implemented temporary measures to improve the availability of key food and grocery items in Victorian supermarkets and to help customers shop safely.

Purchase limits are now in place at all Coles supermarkets in Victoria, as well as in Lavington, Albury and Deniliquin in NSW, as they are replenished from Victorian distribution centres. Limits on toilet paper (one packet), pasta (two packets), hand sanitiser (two units), mince (two units), paper towel (one packets), UHT milk (two units), flour (two packets), eggs (two cartons) and rice (two packets), now apply in stores and online.

Coles staff will also greet customers at the entrance of all Victorian supermarkets to remind them to use the sanitising station, which includes hand sanitiser and disinfectant wipes for trolleys.

“Following discussion with the federal and Victorian governments as well as other retailers, Coles is implementing temporary purchase limits for our Victorian supermarkets to help us manage demand for key staple items,” said Coles Group chief Steven Cain.

“We ask that customers continue to shop normally so that everyone can have access to the food and groceries they need.”

Mr Cain assured Coles customers that their health was a priority and that team members were working hard to provide a safe shopping environment and keeping shelves stocked for customers.

“We ask that customers continue to treat our team with respect and understanding and follow any requests or signs in store to keep a safe distance,” he said.

So far, the re-introduction of product limits will only apply to Victorian and a few NSW supermarkets, as that was the only state or territory “where the early signs of a demand surge is occurring”, said Mr Cain.

Victorian chief health officer Brett Sutton told shoppers that there was no need for panic buying.

“People are not going to run out of stuff, there are not going to be hundreds of hundreds of people in isolation because we’ve got hundreds of cases,” he said.

“We’ve got a small and steady but very concerning number of cases over the last week, so people can go about their shopping as per normal.”

YourLifeChoices has contacted Coles to find out if there will be any further measures aimed at ensuring shopping safety and availability of products for older Australians. No further announcements have been made yet.

Are you concerned about a second wave? Or will you ‘keep calm and carry on’?

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