Toilet paper hoarding 'ridiculous': PM

Benita Kolovos and Matt Coughlan
Coles and Woolworths have brought back limits on buying toilet paper, as demand surges

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has branded a resurgence in panic buying ridiculous, after major supermarkets were forced to reinstate limits on toilet paper purchases.

Coles and Woolworths reinstated purchase limits on toilet paper and other essential items in Victoria on Wednesday after a sudden surge in coronavirus cases sparked hoarding.

From Friday, shoppers in other parts of the country similarly will be allowed to buy only two packs of toilet paper and paper towels at Woolworths stores and one pack at Coles.

At a press conference in Canberra, Mr Morrison repeated his earlier blunt warning to selfish shoppers.

"Stop it, it's ridiculous," he told reporters on Friday.

"I'm sure it will pass as it did last time. There's no need for it."

He said it was important to reassure people the outbreak did not mean there would be a problem with supplies of essential items.

Woolworths Supermarkets managing director Claire Peters said the move is precautionary and designed to support appropriate social distancing in stores during the weekend.

"We've regrettably started to see elevated demand for toilet roll move outside Victoria in the past 24 hours," she said in a statement.

"While the demand is not at the same level as Victoria, we're taking preventative action now to get ahead of any excessive buying this weekend and help maintain social distancing in our stores."

Ms Peters said more than 650,000 additional packs of toilet paper have been added and there is enough for everyone.

"If customers already have enough toilet roll at home, there is no need to buy more," she said.

"The sooner we see buying patterns return to normal levels, as was the case throughout May and most of June, the quicker we'll be able to wind back limits."

In Victoria, purchase limits on eggs, flour, hand sanitiser, long-life milk, mince, pasta, sugar and rice are also in place at both major supermarket chains.

Coles is also limiting purchases at NSW stores near the Victorian border including Albury, Deniliquin and Lavington.

"We ask that customers continue to shop normally so that everyone can have access to the food and groceries they need," a Coles spokeswoman said.