Australian supermarkets have been forced to ramp up their security measures as coronavirus panic-buying reaches a fever pitch across the country.
Police have been called to supervise long queues at grocery stores as shoppers rush to get their hands on what’s left on the shelves amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The hysteria surrounding the deadly outbreak has seen shoppers break into fights over toilet paper and other goods at supermarket chains in recent days.
Footage emerged on Wednesday of authorities standing guard as long lines formed outside of Coles at Broadway Shopping Centre, in Sydney’s inner-west.
In Western Australia, police officers were seen patrolling the aisles as the customers rushed in to stock up on groceries.
A NSW Police spokesperson said officers are helping monitor the queues due to a large influx of customers and will be present where needed.
Police officers have been seen patrolling the aisles at supermarkets in a bid for calm amid panic-buying. Pictured: WA police officer at a Coles
Coles has pleaded with customers to show respect and compassion when shopping for essentials and to support staff who are working hard to keep products on shelves
Coles also confirmed it has increased its security measures in a bid to control chaos at its stores which have been overrun with customers clearing out shelves daily.
‘Coles team members and suppliers have been working as hard as possible delivering more products to stores every day and stocking shelves as quickly as possible,’ they said in a statement on Wednesday.
‘We are constantly reviewing security measures to manage the unprecedented levels of customer demand in our stores and have increased the presence of security in our stores nationally.’
Woolworths has followed suit by doubling their security presence across the store network in the last couple of weeks.
‘We’re working closely with our security contractors to extend coverage even further,’ a spokesperson said.
Coles joined Woolworths, Aldi and IGA in a desperate plea to customers to be more considerate of workers during the stockpiling frenzy.
The call made in newspaper advertisements across the country followed a series of incidents of customers verbally attacking retail staff.
On Tuesday, shocking footage emerged of a shopper in a confrontation with a Coles worker during a heated dispute over toilet paper rationing.
The move to protect elderly and disabled shoppers from the panic-buying chaos comes after numerous confrontations between customers. Two women were charged over this recent incident at a Woolworths in Chullora in Sydney’s south-west
Footage emerged on Tuesday of a Coles customer (right) allegedly abused a female employee (left) over he supermarket’s toilet paper policy
General view outside a Woolworths in Sunbury as people wait outside on Tuesday
The video showed a female member of staff arguing with the male customer – before he said he would ‘smack her face’ if she had been a man.
‘[W]e ask you to please be considerate in the way you shop,’ the ad said.
‘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.
‘No one working or shopping in any of our stores should experience abusive or aggressive behaviour.’
Ugly scenes have also unfolded at Woolworths where three women were filmed in a remarkable fist fight over toilet paper.
The bizarre brawl is understood to have taken place in Chullora, 15km west of Sydney’s CBD, earlier this month.
Hysterical screaming broke out as the trio battled in the aisles, with the incident seemingly stemming from a mother and daughter stockpiling toilet paper.
After spending hours queuing for the store to open at 7am on Saturday, the women poured in – with the mum and daughter piling their trolley high with toilet paper.
The fight began when a third woman tried to take one of the precious packets from the trolley, sparking mayhem.
ASydney woman took to Facebook to share an image of the line at her local Aldi in Miranda (pictured) before claiming the employee offended people by asking them to remain calm
In a speech addressing the nation, Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged Australians to stop hoarding food and abusing supermarket staff.
‘Stop hoarding. I can’t be more blunt about it. Stop it,’ Mr Morrison said as he addressed the nation on Wednesday.
‘That is not who we are as a people. It is not necessary. It is not something that people should be doing.
‘It is distracting attention and efforts that need to be going into other measures, to be focusing on how we maintain supply chains into these shopping centres.
‘It’s ridiculous. It’s un-Australian, and it must stop, and I would ask people to do the right thing by each other in getting a handle on these sorts of practices.’
Mr Morrison reassured the public the government was putting in place ‘scalable and sustainable measures’ and bulk-buying was unnecessary.
Panic-buying has caused stress and frustration amongst elderly shoppers, many of whom find it difficult to make frequent visits to supermarkets for essential goods.
Coles will on Wednesday hold its first ‘community hour’ for seniors and pension card holders from 7am at its stores nationwide, before opening to everyone else.
‘We believe all Australians deserve the right to access their share of grocery items, particularly the elderly and the vulnerable,’ Coles CEO Steven Cain said.
Coles is trying to employ more than 5,000 casual workers to help restock its supermarkets quicker under a fast-tracked induction process and will hire more Coles Online delivery van drivers.