The Australian economy may be tanking from the coronavirus fallout, but the country’s supermarkets have experienced a bonanza weekend.
Coles said it was increasing the number of deliveries to stores this week after popular products such as long-life pantry staples and healthcare items ran short in many suburbs across Australia in the past two days.
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Woolworths said it was drawing on its distribution centres and would “continue working closely” with suppliers to maintain stocked shelves.
Toilet paper, disposable nappies, longlife milk, rice, pasta and a range of tinned goods appeared thin on some shelves in images posted to social media.
There appears to be a general consensus now that the odds of buying a face mask or a bottle of hand sanitiser are becoming increasingly remote.
Shoppers in Costco stores in the US and grocery chains in Hong Kong and Japan posted images and videos capturing panic buying.
When announcing last week Australia was jumping the World Health Organisation gun and treating COVID-19 as a pandemic, Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged people to go about their usual business.
Instead, they went shopping.
“I’ve become that lady,” Sydney mother of three Dianne Regan told 7NEWS.com.au, detailing the stockpile of items she has acquired since she began hoarding in late January.
The family recently added a large pantry to the kitchen, has bought a large freezer to store all the fresh food, and planted a vegetable garden.
Dianne Regan in her kitchen. Credit: Supplied/Dianne Regan/Supplied
Apart from the usual array of pantry dry goods, Regan boasts a large stash of now virtually unobtainable face masks and hand sanitisers because she began stockpiling early.
“I’m not psychic, I’m not going to lie, and I felt a little bit crazy, but on Australia Day a close friend who has family in Hong Kong rang me and asked if I’d seen the videos online from China,” she said.
“I immediately got scared, I realised there was a huge possibility this virus could come to Australia.
“I thought if they’re locking down millions of people in Hubei, well, they wouldn’t be doing that unless it was really serious.”
Dianne Regan’s pantry. Credit: Supplied/Dianne Regan
Regan says she has a daughter who suffers from severe asthma and her 83-year-old mother, who also lives with the family, is vulnerable to respiratory illnesses.
“I’m just trying to be sensible, I haven’t done anything ridiculous, I’ve bought enough just for my family,” she said.
“If nothing happens, well, it will all get used anyway.”
As news came in overnight that a 78-year-old Perth man, James Kwan, had become the first person to die from COVID-19 in the country, the Australian share market dropped to levels not seen since the GFC.
The Reserve Bank is widely expected to cut interest rates on Tuesday to an all-time low.
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‘This is a health crisis not a financial crisis.’
In parliament on Monday, Morrison said once the coronavirus crisis subsided, the Australian economy would quickly bounce back.
“This is a health crisis not a financial crisis, but it is a health crisis with very significant economic implications,” Morrison said.
“We’ll be focusing on ensuring that we keep Australians in jobs, we keep business in business and we keep investment flowing during what will be a very challenging time for the Australian economy.”
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Four new cases were confirmed over the weekend, all involving people who recently returned to Australia from Iran, taking the total number of cases in Australia to 29.
Globally there have been more than 87,000 infections and almost 3000 deaths spanning 60 countries.