Supermarkets ravaged by panicked shoppers have announced further measures to assist all customers seeking essential items.
Woolworths launched a dedicated hour of shopping for the elderly and disabled on Tuesday, rival supermarket Coles has been quick to follow suit and IGA is considering a similar service.
Both Woolworths and Coles supermarkets are opening their stores between 7am and 8am exclusively to give those groups the opportunity to buy highly sought-after and hard-to-find items such as toilet paper, tissues, pasta and hand sanitiser, after shelves have hopefully been restocked and before the general public is allowed in-store.
The exclusive shopping hour is available to those who can show a relevant government-issued seniors, pensioner or disability card.
Limits on purchases at most supermarkets include:
- Dry pasta – two packs
- Flour – two packs
- Tissues – two packs
- Paper towel, serviettes and wipes – one pack
- Toilet paper – one pack
- Hand sanitiser – two units
- Bulk rice (2kg+) – one pack
Coles has also announced it is in the process of hiring an extra 5000 casual staff to help restock shelves more quickly overnight and throughout the day.
Woolworths says the new hours will be in place until at least 20 March.
Woolworths Supermarkets managing director Claire Peters said: “While we’ll continue to do our very best to restock our stores during this period of unprecedented demand, we know many of our elderly customers have been missing out on essential items when they shop.
“This temporary measure will give them, and those with a disability, the opportunity to shop before our stores officially open – helping them obtain the essential items they need most in a less crowded environment.”
Woolworths is also working with Meals on Wheels in New South Wales to help deliver toilet paper directly to the elderly.
The revised opening times mean many stores will open at 7am instead of 6am and most will close earlier than normal, at 8pm, to give staff time to clean and restock the shelves.
Coles said the change was made to give staff “the time and space to extensively clean our stores and replenish the shelves for customers the next day”.
A Coles spokesperson said that if elderly or vulnerable people were unable to get to a supermarket to buy essential items, they should log on to Foodbank’s website to find a local charity or service nearby.
On Sundays, the one-hour timeslot for seniors and people with disabilities will move to 8am.
In other news, the NSW government has announced a $2.3 billion coronavirus stimulus package. NSW Health will receive an extra $700 million to boost a range of services including doubling the capacity of intensive care units, preparing for additional coronavirus testing and buying extra ventilators and medical equipment. Another $1.6 billion will be directed at the economy to help keep people in jobs.
If you suspect you or a family member has coronavirus you should call (not visit) your GP or ring the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.
Have you taken advantage of the exclusive shopping hour? Were you able to buy the items you needed?
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