A heartbreaking photograph of an elderly woman staring at empty grocery shelves during the COVID-19 pandemic has brought together the best of humanity as people across the world offer to buy and send her groceries.
The viral image was taken in the canned food aisle of the Port Melbourne Coles at 12pm on Thursday.
Nine News journalist Seb Costello posted the image on Twitter and said the woman – who has not been identified – was ‘in tears’.
‘This captures who is suffering from the me-first, unnecessary, trend of panic buying,’ he wrote.
The heartbreaking picture was taken in the canned food aisle of the Port Melbourne store at 12pm on Thursday
Good Samaritans have since sent countless emails to Daily Mail Australia sharing their ‘heartbreak’ at the image, as well as offering to lend a helping hand.
‘I don’t know the older woman in the photo crying but if you find her please try to find out what she needs and I will donate to her,’ one email read.
‘With these hard times and our elderly having these issues I wish I could do so much more. I feel this in my heart.’
Another reader said the picture left them in tears and they hoped a fellow shopper was able to help.
Kristine, from California, said she would ‘truly appreciate’ to be able to assist the woman.
‘Our state is in lockdown. I can try and send packages of canned goods. The idea, more than the picture itself, speaks far worse about the community that we live in,’ she said.
CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 1,073
New South Wales: 436
Western Australia: 90
South Australia: 67
Australian Capital Territory: 9
Northern Territory: 5
TOTAL CASES: 1,073
Peter, a Korean expat in Malaysia, also offered his ‘unconditional’ aid.
‘Our local stores still have food items, and I can ship some essential food items to her by TNT Express,’ he wrote.
‘I have a family, and there are three of us, but we have enough food to spare; so if you can somehow get her contact details, that would be great.
‘I can get her pasta, oatmeal, cereals, candies, crackers and so on.’
Ashlee, who emailed in from Louisiana, offered to send cash to someone who could buy grocery items for the woman.
Another email read: ‘I’m in the US and I saw the picture that was posted of the elderly woman looking at the bare shelves and crying.’
‘The image has haunted me. I was just wondering if anyone located her and was able to help?
‘There are so many people suffering right now, especially the elderly.’
Another Good Samaritan said: ‘If you find out who this lady is I’d be more than happy to go out and find exactly what she needs and pay for it.’
‘No one deserves to be brought to tears due to lack of food in this country.’
The number of COVID-19 cases in Australia soared past 1,000 on Saturday
Pictured: A man trying to buy toilet paper in an Australian supermarket after panic buying due to the COVID-19 pandemic
Panicked shoppers at Coles have bought up to three Christmases worth of stock in as many weeks amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Coles chief operations officer Matthew Swindells compared the scale of hoarding to festive seasons – but without the usual six months of lead-up planning.
‘It’s not a problem of supply, it’s a problem of demand,’ Mr Swindells told the Seven Network.
‘We have done three Christmases in three consecutive weeks from a standing start.
‘When you see that immediate lift in demand across a network as large as Coles, it punches a huge stock hole in our supply lines and it takes time to recover.’
Twitter users slammed shoppers who continue to bulk buy after viewing the ‘heartbreaking’ photo.
‘This really breaks my heart, the elderly have already given to society, why aren’t we looking after them?? We will be them sooner than we realise. Bring in rationing….please let’s look after the vulnerable,’ one person wrote.
‘I am so disappointed with our country at the moment, especially our blatant disregard for our senior citizens,’ added another.
A joint statement from leading supermarkets
Australia’s leading supermarket chains have banded together on Wednesday to plead with customers to be considerate of each other and treat staff members respectfully.
Aldi, Coles, IGA and Woolworth said they were doing everything they could to get as much produce on the shelves as possible, often under difficult circumstances.
‘So we ask you to please be considerate in the way you shop,’ they said in a joint statement.
‘We understand your concerns, but if you buy only what you need and stick to the product limits it helps everyone, especially the elderly and people with disability.’
Supermarkets have been forced to introduce buying limits on items due to the surge in demand for goods.
Australia produces enough food for 75million people, or three times its population, but shelves have been stripped bare as shoppers fear being locked down because of COVID-19.
In a press conference to the nation on Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Scott Morrison begged Australians to ‘stop hoarding’ as supermarket stores will remain open.
‘I can’t be more blunt about it. Stop it. It’s ridiculous. It’s un-Australian, and it must stop. It is not sensible and it is not helpful,’ Mr Morrison said.
‘It has been one of the most disappointing things I have seen in Australian behaviour in response to this crisis. That is not who we are as a people. It is not necessary.
‘There is no reason for people to be hoarding supplies in fear of a lockdown or anything like this. It is not something that people should be doing.’
On Wednesday, Coles followed Woolworths and introduced a dedicated shopping hour for the elderly and vulnerable.
‘Coles supermarkets will temporarily change their trading hours to open 7am to 8pm on weekdays, with the first hour of trade open exclusively to customers who hold a government-issued Pensioner Concession Card, Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, Companion Card and Health Care Card,’ the supermarket giant said in a statement.
Cole on Friday said panicked shoppers have bought up to three Christmases worth of stock in as many weeks amid the coronavirus pandemic
Australia produces enough food for 75million people, or three times its population, but shelves have been stripped bare as shoppers fear being locked down because of COVID-19
‘Once this hour is complete, all other customers will be invited through the doors to complete their grocery shop.
‘Supermarkets will also close no later than 8pm to give our team members the time and space to extensively clean our stores and replenish the shelves for customers the next day.’
The risk of serious illness from coronavirus increases with age.
A fact sheet by the Australian Government read: ‘The highest rate of fatalities is among older people, particularly those with other serious health conditions or a weakened immune system.’
‘To protect older Australians and those with compromised immune systems we all need to work together to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
Australians are advised to exercise ‘social distancing’, including staying 1.5 metres away from other people, in a bid to combat the spread of the virus.
Ms Ellis shared this photo of an elderly man staring at an empty bread shelf after it was cleaned out by coronavirus panic buyers
Pictured: Good Samaritan Helena Ellis
On Monday, Sydney-based DJ Helena Ellis shared a photo of an elderly man staring at an empty shelf in the bread section.
Ms Ellis was shopping at an IGA store in Sydney’s south when she came across the man who was ‘at least 84’.
He had ‘an empty trolley [and was] staring at empty shelves of bread,’ she said.
‘My heart broke.’
Ms Ellis had picked up the last two packets of hot dog buns, so decided to give him one out of her own trolley.
Ms Ellis suggested communities work together to protect elderly people and ensure they’ve got everything they need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘If you see an old person, please stop and ask them if they need anything… give them something from your trolley that is no longer on the shelves,’ she said.