A man has been charged with assault after tensions flared at a packed Woolworths supermarket in Sydney’s west.
Footage posted online from inside the the Bass Hill store shows a group of at least six men involved in a melee next to a crowded checkout area shortly after midday on Sunday.
Several men can be seen grabbing one another as staff appear to try and break up the altercation.
One man shouts, “That’s enough!”, while another proclaims, “He hit my dad!”
A NSW Police spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia a man involved in the incident had now been charged with common assault.
The 39-year-old man allegedly assaulted another man, 54, and is due to appear at Bankstown Local Court on April 1.
Woolworths confirmed to Yahoo News Australia no one was injured in the incident.
“We do not tolerate violence of any kind from customers in our stores,” a spokesperson said.
While the incident is believed not to be related to items prone to stockpiling, it came on a day where supermarkets once again ran out of dozens of items as shoppers continue to hoard products as coronavirus continues to spread nationally.
Shoppers reported products including rice, pasta, bread, hand sanitiser and toilet paper as being widely sold out over the weekend as many look to prepare themselves for a potential 14-day isolation period.
Calls to protect ‘scared’ elderly
The Sunday Project’s host Lisa Wilkinson called for supermarkets to protect the vulnerable as supermarket pandemonium showed no signs of slowing down.
“Images of people physically attacking each other over rolls of toilet paper would have been simply unimaginable just a few weeks ago,” she said on the show.
“But for anyone who has been to the supermarket in the last couple of days, we know right now it’s a case of survival of the fittest and sadly the fiercest.”
She said supermarkets should move to ensure all elderly shoppers, who are “very scared right now”, had first refusal of products at the start of the day.
“Supermarket bosses, can I suggest you think about leaving that first hour of trading each day for the elderly and those with disabilities, or those who can prove they are shopping for them... no huge crowds, everything restocked and freshly cleaned.
“That is a no-brainer.”
Woolworths announces hour dedicated to elderly and disabled
On Monday morning, Woolworths confirmed to Yahoo News Australia stores would be opening from 7am from Tuesday to at least Friday to accomodate elderly and disabled shoppers.
Prior to 8am anyone with a concession or disability card will be allowed into the store to ensure they have access to products.
“We continue to encourage all Australians to be mindful of those in our communities who might need extra help at this time. Now - more than ever - we need to be kind to each other, especially to those most vulnerable,” Woolworths Supermarkets Managing Director Claire Peters said.
IGA Altona in Melbourne has also announced a similar move.
And it seems the furore regularly documented in stores isn’t only affecting shoppers, with staff revealing they’re suffering anxiety having to work amid the surge in shoppers.
The country’s leading supermarkets have all introduced limits on toilet paper and other products in recent weeks to curtail the stockpiling.
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