Supermarkets in the NSW Hunter region have been overrun with customers stocking up on food, essential items and stripping shelves bare as the area becomes the latest part of the state to enter lockdown.
The NSW Hunter and Upper Hunter regions are the latest areas where residents will be largely confined to their homes from 5pm on Thursday after Greater Sydney's Covid outbreak spread north.
The new lockdown will impact almost 750,000 people in the local government areas of Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Port Stephens, Cessnock, Dungog, Singleton and Muswellbrook.
It's been 16 months since the country was plunged into its first lockdown, but many residents rushed to load up on supermarket goods despite repeated requests from authorities throughout the pandemic for people not to panic buy.
Local MP Tim Crakanthorp shared videos of flooded supermarkets as he urged people not to panic buy.
"This is actually how shelves get stripped bare," he wrote on Facebook, repeatedly reminding people that supermarkets do not close during lockdown.
"There are vulnerable people in our community who cannot wait in long lines and cannot be not in crowds.
"Supermarkets will not close!
"And once more for the people in the back: SUPERMARKETS WILL NOT CLOSE!"
One constituent responded on Facebook, sharing a photo of cars lining up in the street to enter the Coles supermarket store in Mayfield, Newcastle.
"Lining up the street. Seriously," they wrote.
In Muswellbrook, local ABC journalist Jake Lapham shared a video showing the checkout queue snaking through nearly the entire circumference of the store.
A Woolworths staff member at the Muswellbrook store said staff were too busy to stop.
"We're really, really busy," she told Yahoo News Australia but said there had been no incidences.
With all registers open, they were managing the influx of customers and expected to have enough stock to handle the rush, she said.
Photos posted online on Thursday afternoon in the hours before the lockdown kicked in showed Coles and Woolworths stores with empty shelves after essential items like toilet paper were hoarded – a familiar sight during Australia's long and ongoing battle with Covid.
Party believed to be behind Covid spread to Hunter
Five people in the Hunter region have been diagnosed with Covid-19 after a party on Blacksmith Beach, south of Newcastle on Friday night, NSW Health revealed on Thursday.
The state's Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerry Chant, said she believes someone from the Greater Sydney area attended the party and introduced Covid to the area.
"Our strongest focus... is getting to the bottom of how the disease was transmitted and introduced into Newcastle," she told reporters.
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