Australia’s largest supermarket chain Woolworths has established exclusive opening hours to support the elderly and individuals with a disability amid coronavirus induced panic-buying.
From Tuesday until Friday, at the minimum, elderly and vulnerable customers with a government-provided senior or disability concession card will have sole entry to nationwide Woolworths supermarkets between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. All other members of the community will be allowed in after 8 a.m.
The spread of Covid-19, the novel strain of coronavirus, in Australia has seen people unnecessarily rush to stockpile items like toilet paper, pasta and meat to prepare for the possibility of self-isolation.
Woolworths Supermarkets Managing Director Claire Peters said the revised hours were implemented after vulnerable members of the community were unable to purchase staples over the past few days due to “unprecedented demand.”
"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,” Peters said in a press release. “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 added: “We continue to encourage all Australians to be mindful of those in our communities who might need extra help at this time. Now — more than ever — we need to be kind to each other, especially to those most vulnerable.”
We’re launching a dedicated shopping hour in our stores to help support the needs of the elderly & people with disability in the community. From tomorrow until at least friday, we’ll be opening exclusively for them to shop from 7-8am, where permitted.— Woolworths (@woolworths) March 15, 2020
The supermarket has made a variety of additional changes over the past week.
The home order delivery service was momentarily suspended in parts of Victoria, and the supermarket’s online order and pick-up service has been halted across the country. Limits have also been placed on the amount of meat, hand sanitiser, toilet paper, flour, tissue paper, pasta and rise customers can buy.
Woolworths has likewise started working with food delivery service Meals on Wheels in New South Wales. Meals on Wheels volunteers will now hand over a pack of toilet paper during their normal delivery of ready-made meals to those signed up to the service.
The supermarket also announced they would be closing shop at an early time of 8 p.m. each night to replenish stock.
As of March 16, 298 people have been infected, and five have died from coronavirus in Australia.
In response to the pandemic, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a $2.4 billion AUD health bundle and $17.6 billion economic plan in the hopes of safeguarding the health of Australians and the economy.
All public gatherings over 500 people have been banned — forcing the cancellation of events like the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival, Formula 1 Melbourne Grand Prix and the Melbourne Comedy Festival. Meanwhile, the entire Australia Football League season will be played without a crowd.
All travelers returning to Australia from anywhere overseas will now be forced to quarantine themselves for 14 days.
Last week, Global Citizen launched a new campaign to support the fight against coronavirus. The campaign asks everyday citizens to call on leaders of the G20 nations to step up and ensure the World Health Organisation has the means to protect people around the world from the virus.
Learn more about the campaign and start taking action here: Stand Together to Beat Coronavirus.