Supermarkets struggle as Aussie shoppers panic-buy amid coronavirus crisis

Brooke Rolfe
News Reporter

People across the world have begun panic-buying supplies as the deadly coronavirus continues to spread rapidly and claim lives, including an Australian man who became the country’s first COVID-19 fatality.

Instances of supermarkets being cleared of basic supplies have been reported in Australian cities as well as in New Zealand, the United States, Mexico, Italy, Ireland, England and Japan.

Images of shelves having been emptied of toilet paper, bread, pasta, water, canned food and other grocery staples have been shared to Twitter as global panic appears to escalate.

Costco shoppers in Adelaide queued for up to 40 minutes (left) and an empty toilet paper aisle at a store in New Zealand (right). Source: Twitter

In Western Australia’s capital city of Perth, a Coles supermarket in Claremont – west of the city – had been cleaned out, with photos showing a bleak snacks section and an empty toilet paper aisle.

Meanwhile in Adelaide, images showed huge queues inside Costco and pallets emptied of toilet paper, which is usually available to buy in bulk at the retailer.

The hysteria has extended to Sydney, where there were reports a supermarket on the North Shore had been almost entirely cleared of rice, flour and toilet paper, with staff struggling to keep up with demand.

There was a similar scene inside a retailer in New Zealand, where all the bread except for gluten-free varieties had been sold out.

People have been seen lining up at Costco supermarkets in several areas across the United States and videos have offered a glimpse into the panic that also seems to have gripped Italy and South Korea.

Huge numbers of frenzied shoppers were also shown inside a Costco in Mexico, while photos taken by several people in San Francisco and New York revealed completely bare supermarket shelves.

An entire aisle of toilet paper had also been cleared inside a store in Japan, while there were reports of lines 40 trolleys deep at a retailer in Seattle.

People in Japan wearing face masks were filmed inside a Costco store lugging bulk packs of toilet, while there was a full car park of customers waiting with trolleys for a supermarket to open in Brooklyn, New York.

Barren scenes inside a supermarket in Hong Kong (left) and New York (right). Source: Twitter

Woolworths says ‘partial shortages’ won’t last

A Woolworths spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia there had been a recent notable rise in demand for pantry staples.

“We’ve seen an increase in demand for long-life pantry items and household staples in recent days, which has led to partial stock shortages across some of our stores,” the spokesperson said.

“Our teams have been working hard to replenish these products as quickly as possible. We have good stock levels to draw on in our distribution centres and will continue working closely with our suppliers to maintain supply.

“We apologise to customers for the inconvenience and thank them for their patience.”

A spokesperson from Coles told Yahoo News Australia the retailer had experienced shortages of particular products.

“There is no immediate risk to essential groceries, and we are working with our suppliers to maintain availability for customers,” they said.

“However, we are currently experiencing a shortage of some antibacterial hand washes and hand sanitiser products due to high customer demand.”

The first Australian death from the coronavirus was confirmed after a 78-year-old man passed away early Sunday morning while in isolation at a Perth hospital.

His death came as Australia on Sunday enforced a ban on foreigners entering the country from Iran.

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