Australia descended into a panic-buying frenzy on Saturday as thousands of people rushed to stock up on food amid coronavirus fears.
Woolworths and Coles introduced strict new purchase limits last week on toilet paper, pasta, dry rice and hand sanitiser after their shelves were repeatedly raided by nervous shoppers.
But the restrictions appear to have made people even more desperate, as video footage inside a Costco in Sydney seems to attest.
The alarming clip shows hundreds of people waiting to get into the store in Epping, north of the city’s CBD.
Some customers wore facemasks as they waited patiently in single file.
However, once inside the store there was a stampede of shoppers who ransacked the shelves and barged other customers out of the way.
Costco shoppers rushed in to grab essential items on Saturday amid coronavirus fears
Hundreds of people queued outside a Costco on Saturday morning, hoping to bulk buy
One helpless shop assistant can be heard shouting ‘there’s no toilet paper’ as people rushed past her.
Shoppers were seen leaving the store with trolleys piled high with produce.
There were similar scenes in other supermarkets as shoppers seemed intent on stockpiling despite repeated calls for calm.
Coles, in Bondi Junction, had large queues of shoppers waiting to be served after grabbing whatever was left off the shelves.
Woolworths, in Lidcome, was free of pasta and pasta sauce, tinned food, nappies, and stocks of flour ad sugar were running low.
The queue of people stretched down the street. Shoppers waited in single file
‘Anything I can get my hands on I get two of it,’ a shopper told Nine News.
‘There’s no meat either so that was really scary.’
These frightening scenes come after Coles limits the purchase of staples such as pasta, flour, toilet paper to just two per person as of Saturday.
‘As the situation around coronavirus continues to develop, we believe that everyone in the community should have access to their share of grocery items, particularly the elderly,’ CEO Steven Cain said.
‘Following the toilet paper restrictions introduced last week we have seen compassion from customers respecting these limits.’
Coles in Claremont has had its shelves emptied of tinned foods following the coronavirus outbreak
Supermarkets have limited the amount of pasta, flour, dried rice, paper, towels and tissues after shoppers purchased items in bulk (pictured: empty pasta shelves in Coles)
Customers will be allowed only two items of pasta, flour, dried rice, paper towels/tissues and hand sanitisers.
CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 227
New South Wales: 114
South Australia: 19
Western Australia: 17
Northern Territory: 1
Australian Capital Territory: 1
TOTAL CASES: 227
Some additional items will also have limits and can vary between stores.
‘Everyone’s trollies had two of everything. Everyone’s doing it,’ another shopper told Nine News.
Coles also announced they won’t offer refunds on any additional items that were purchased as a result of panic buying.
‘From today we will be temporarily suspending our change-of-mind refund policy to discourage over-purchasing,’ Mr Cain continued.
‘If you have already purchased additional items you no longer want, please look at donating them to community organisations or neighbours who have been struggling to purchase them during this time.’
Toilet rolls have been flying off shelves for more than a fortnight, with the country’s biggest manufacturers, Kimberly-Clark, speeding up its 24-hour production line.
Coles also announced they won’t offer refunds on any additional items that were purchased as a result of panic buying (pictured: Coles store with empty shelves)
The company hopes the round-the-clock production will help to slow the panic, as Australian families stock up fearing a total supermarket shutdown.
This is despite toilet paper being produced on mass in Australia, and no supermarkets reporting a shortage.
The number of coronavirus cases in Australia soared to 227 on Saturday.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people should not take place from Monday in a drastic step to halt the spread of the coronavirus.
But the ban will not apply to schools, universities or public transport, Mr Morrison said.