Canberra: Australia’s largest supermarket chain, Woolworths, will offer a special hour of priority shopping to elderly customers and those with disabilities, who have been impacted by “panic-buying” due to the coronavirus pandemic, the company announced on Monday.
Starting Tuesday, from 7 a.m. till 8 a.m., the vulnerable customers will be able to purchase their necessities, before other shoppers are able to clear the shelves of toilet paper, sanitary products, long-life foods and other items, which have been rapidly selling out in recent weeks, reports Xinhua news agency.
There have also been isolated instances of fights and altercations as shoppers scramble to grab quickly diminished supplies, including two women who were charged for fighting over a packet of toilet paper.
“While, we’ll continue to do our very best to restock our stores during this period of unprecedented demand, we know many of our elderly customers have been missing out on essential items when they shop,” Woolworths Supermarkets Managing Director Claire Peters said.
“This temporary measure will give them, and those with a disability, the opportunity to shop before our stores officially open — helping them obtain the essential items they need most in a less crowded environment,” Peters said.
Shops across the country have been cleared out of many items as more anxious members of the public prepare for long periods of isolation, however health authorities have labelled this an over-reaction, and some supermarkets have imposed limits on the purchase of some items.
The revised opening hours will initially be in place until the end of the week at which point Woolworths will make the decision to extend them.
Australia has reported 297 coronavirus cases and three deaths.