Panic buying has once again taken hold of Victorian supermarkets as the state prepares for a five-day "circuit breaker" lockdown, after a cluster of new cases linked to a quarantine hotel were confirmed.
Images shared to social media show rows of shelves stripped bare as people race to the shops to stock up on supplies for the next five days.
In an echo of past lockdowns, it seems toilet paper is a top priority for many households.
Despite the lockdown, people in Victoria are still permitted to go to the shops to get groceries.
"How can a 5 day lockdown be announced an hour ago and this is the local shop..." one person tweeted sharing a photo of empty shelves.
Reporter Paul Amy shared a photo of the toilet paper aisle at the Coles at Waverley Gardens, showing a completely empty bottom shelf - though there were still some packs on the top shelf.
ABC reporter Stephanie Ferrier shared photos that showed the supermarket was already quite busy following the lockdown announcement.
With another lockdown overshadowing Melbourne due to a possible 3rd wave of Covid-19 outbreak...
The Olympic of panic buying has began. pic.twitter.com/3udlzLvXv5
— 巴丢草 Badiucao (@badiucao) February 12, 2021
— Stephanie Ferrier (@FerrierSteph) February 12, 2021
Coles and Woolworths implement buying limits
To curb panic buying Coles and Woolworths have implemented purchase limits in Victoria.
Essential services, like supermarkets and grocery stores, will remain open for the duration of the lockdown.
While people are permitted to leave their homes during the lockdown to get groceries, it is required people wear face masks when doing so.
In their media releases, both Coles and Woolworths reminded customers they must wear face masks while shopping in-stores.
“We understand this is an anxious time for Victorians, but we want to reassure customers we will remain open as an essential service," Woolworths Victoria Assistant State Manager John Di Tirro said.
Woolworths said the purchase limits were a precautionary measure, following a surge in demand after the announcement.
Prayers for supermarket staff in Melbourne this arvo
— Tim (@Thwaitsey4) February 12, 2021
To ensure there is plenty of stock to go around for customers in Victoria, Woolworths shared a video of Victorian General Manager of Supply Chain Justin Dowling inside one of the state's distribution centres.
Woolworths have implemented a two item per customer, per shop rule on a number of items, including toilet paper.
The items which have purchase limits at Woolworths are:
Frozen chips, including gems and wedges
Longlife specialty milk
Bread loaves (including in-store)
Fresh milk (excluding flavoured)
We have plenty of stock to draw on and our teams in VIC will be working around the clock to ensure it continues to flow into our stores. Here’s our GM of Supply Chain at one of our VIC distribution centres. pic.twitter.com/m9TmJML7dR
— Woolworths (@woolworths) February 12, 2021
Woolworths has also implemented a 2kg limit on the following:
Meat from the Butcher
Poultry from the Deli
Smallgoods from the Deli
Coles Chief Operations Officer Matt Swindells said the company has increased the number of team members in stores and expanded the capacity for Coles Online.
Toilet paper is restricted to one pack per customer at Coles supermarkets, Coles Online and Coles Express stores in Victoria, though several other items are restricted to two per customer.
The health and safety of customers and team members remains Coles’ top priority, Mr Swindells said.
“We have well-established safety protocols in Victoria based on what we have learned from COVID restrictions implemented in other states. Taking these immediate and additional safety measures will protect and ensure our customers and team members can feel safe in our stores,” Mr Swindells said.
Coles has restricted the following to one per customer:
The following items are restricted to two items per customer, per shop:
Fresh white milk
Long life milk
Victoria's lockdown to prevent UK strain spreading in the community
The circuit breaker lockdown will last for five days and applies for the whole of Victoria, after five new cases linked to Melbourne Airport's Holiday Inn were confirmed.
There are now 13 cases of Covid-19 linked to the cluster, and genomic testing on earlier cases confirmed they have the more virulent UK strain of the virus.
The "working assumption" is all people linked to the cluster have the B117 strain, which Premier Daniel Andrews described as "hyper-infectious".
"It is moving at a velocity that has not been seen anywhere in our country over the course of these last 12 months," Mr Andrews said on Friday.
There are only four reasons people in Victoria are permitted to leave their home; for shopping for essential items, caregiving or compassionate reasons, essential work or permitted education and exercise.
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