Coles, Woolworths shelves stripped as lockdown panic-buying returns

In what's been described by many online as a bad case of déjà vu, Melbourne supermarkets have seen their shelves stripped of toilet paper ahead of Victoria's 7-day Covid lockdown starting at midnight.

Minor panic buying has broken out in Melbourne and surrounding regions. Pictures posted on social media show shelves stripped bare at Woolworths and Coles stores in the city.

"It's begun," 7News journalist Paul Dowsley noted, sharing a picture of empty shelves in Melbourne's north on Thursday morning.

A few packets of toilet paper left on Woolworths shelves in Victoria.
Shoppers have loaded up on toilet paper ahead of a snap lockdown. Source: Twitter
Empty Coles shelves as Victoria is set to enter a 7-day lockdown.
Coles said it had no intentions currently to limit purchases in Victoria. Source: Nine News

"The world moves on to vaccines... as Melbourne reverts back to toilet paper wars," another resident lamented on Twitter, sharing a photo of empty Woolies shelves.

Some locals took to social media calling for the supermarket giants to monitor bulk buying and make provisions for the vulnerable.

Woolworths 'monitoring demand closely'

"I just hope you are diligent enough to put limits on what people buy please," one woman wrote on the Woolworth's Facebook page.

"So over idiots panic buying, there is no need for this."

While panic buying scenes were ugly hallmarks of earlier lockdowns, supermarkets have been quick to allay any concern among shoppers, saying there will not be any shortages of essential items.

"We're monitoring demand closely, but we have plenty of supply available across our store network," a Woolworths spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia.

"And we will continue to replenish stock as needed. As always, we ask customers to be mindful of others in their community and buy only what they need."

Coles calls for customer calm

Coles, meanwhile, said it had seen elevated demand in the past 24 hours but called for calm.

"We’ve seen elevated demand in Melbourne in the past 24 hours but there is plenty of stock in the supply chain, regular deliveries to stores and our team members continue to refill gaps throughout the day," a spokesperson said.

"We ask that customers stay calm, only buy what they need and be respectful to our hard working team members."

The supermarket giant told Yahoo News Australia it had no plans of introducing any stock limits for Victoria.

Victoria enters snap lockdown

Victoria will enter a seven-day snap lockdown from midnight on Thursday.

For the next week, residents will only be allowed to leave their homes for five essential reasons: work or education, essential shopping, two-hour exercise, medical treatment or assistance, and to get vaccinated.

Acting Premier James Merlino announced the Stage Three restrictions will last for at least seven days.

"We've seen more evidence we're dealing with a highly infectious strain of the virus, a variant of concern, which is running faster than we have ever recorded," he said.

Earlier on Thursday, the Department of Health announced 11 further local cases, taking the Melbourne outbreak's total to 26.

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