Even before social distancing was adopted on a widespread scale across Australia’s urban centres, panic buying in recent weeks had left supermarket shelves bare of essentials such as toilet roll and pasta. While those able either to travel to find supplies or fight it out in a scrum have been able to get their hands on these much-coveted goods, the elderly and those with limited mobility have been less able to navigate the shopping frenzy.
Many stores have instituted limits on the bulk-buying of certain products – from toilet paper and disinfectant to rice, pasta and meat – but as authorities institute stricter isolation tactics, there have been concerns that more vulnerable members of the community might still be unable to access essential goods. In response, some supermarkets are introducing dedicated shopping times for elderly people and those with disabilities, allowing them exclusive access to the aisles before the rest of the public.
Woolworths stores across the country will open one hour earlier, at 7am, until at least Friday, March 20. Access to the store will require proof of age or disability status. Additionally, although the supermarket’s usual online ordering service has been unavailable or suspended in many parts of the country, in New South Wales, Woolworths has been working with Meals on Wheels to deliver toilet paper directly to elderly people unable to travel to a local branch.
The government has strongly advised against panic buying, but it has also urged people to have a least a few days’ worth of food available should cities be required to go into a full lockdown, as many have had to do in Europe and China. Time Out will bring you updates as the COVID-19 pandemic develops.