Images showing elderly customers lining up outside supermarkets early on Tuesday morning highlight the desperate need of groceries for Australia’s most vulnerable.
It was the first day of Woolworths making its first opening hour exclusively for elderly and disabled customers to buy their essential groceries.
Pictures shared from around Australia on social media showed eligible people in long queues as they flocked to stores before the 7am opening time.
“I feel sad watching this,” one woman tweeted, sharing a photo of elderly customers filing into a Woolworths while it is still dark outside.
“How as a society have we forced pensioners to shop in the dark at 7am,” she wrote.
Elderly customers arrive to find empty shelves
Speaking to Yahoo News Australia, Judy Lewis, 80, from Melbourne said she and her 86-year-old husband, David, arrived at the Glen Huntly Woolworths store in Melbourne at 6am this morning, just to be safe.
Ms Lewis explains despite being right at the doors before the store opened, she had no such luck getting the essentials she and her husband needed.
She said maybe the first 20 people in line were able to get their hands on toilet paper, the toothpaste and toothbrushes were almost gone, there was barely any fresh produce or meat.
“It was almost like a sick joke,” she said.
Just got these photos through from a GIANT of the line ups at Woolworths opening 7am winding all the way down the road.— 💧 Sleeping Giants Oz 📣 (@slpng_giants_oz) March 16, 2020
No social distancing happening here and no toilet paper here or down the road at Coles at 7am.#Auspol #coronavirusaus pic.twitter.com/FzusdxKZ7E
Ms Lewis explained she and her husband were in good health, however she did have some concerns for some of the other people standing in line, saying she felt “terribly sorry” for customers standing in line with walking sticks.
“Its putting a whole lot of vulnerable people together and not a good look,” Ms Lewis said.
“I’ve never known anything like this”
Another man shared photos of the shelves at 7.44am this morning.
“I thought the point of this was to have food accessible to the ones who need it?! Yet we are faced with this?! It’s simply not good enough!” he tweeted, along with photos of empty shelves.
Woolworths acknowledge ongoing problems
Claire Peters the managing director of Woolworth Supermarkets acknowledged the first day of thee dedicated shopping hour “wasn’t perfect across all of our stores”.
“While we've heard positive feedback from many stores across the country, we regret that many customers were unable to get all the items they needed this morning,” Ms Peters said in a statement supplied to Yahoo News Australia.
“We’re doing the very best we can to get more stock into our stores and onto shelves as quickly as possible in the face of unprecedented demand.”
She confirmed the dedicated shopping hour will operate for the rest of the week and Woolworths will be “taking on the lessons of the day and getting better along the way.”
It wasn’t just shelves in Woolworths stores that were wiped clean. People were also sharing photos of Coles stores from around Australia with empty shelves from early this morning.
Coles’ community hour begins Wednesday
One man claims he was the first through the doors at a Coles this morning, with about 70 behind him, however even though he arrived at 6am to line up, the produce and meat sections were completely bare.
This is what my @Coles looked like when it opened at 6am this morning. I was first through the door with about 70 people behind me. Everyone just wandered around aimlessly for a few minutes and then left. pic.twitter.com/FRpxGnchOJ— Age Conte (@AgeC) March 16, 2020
“Everyone just wandered around aimlessly for a few minutes and then left,” he said.
One person, sharing a photo of freezer section looking particularly bare thanked Coles for the early access, and despite the minimal stock, said those who filed into the store early this morning were “the most delightful shoppers I've ever seen”.
Coles will also implement a “community hour”, starting Wednesday to ensure the elderly and people with disabilities have access to essentials.
“‘Community Hour’ will help improve access during this time of unprecedented demand. Stores will also close no later than 8pm so team members can clean & restock,” Coles said on Twitter on Monday.
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