Australian Supermarket Chain Offering Dedicated Shopping Times For Elderly And Disabled Amid Coronavirus Rush

A picture of a shopper in a Woolworths store.
Quinn Rooney / Getty Images

An Australian supermarket chain has decided to offer dedicated shopping times for those who are most at risk for the coronavirus, giving them time to shop away from the panic buying that has taken place recently as a result of the pandemic.

As 7 News in Australia reported, Woolworths said it will open exclusively for “vulnerable” shoppers between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. each day starting on Tuesday, offering those most in need access to shop before the crowds. Across the country, shoppers have cleared shelves of essentials like bulk food, cleaning supplies, medicine, and toilet paper. The company said it wanted to make sure those who were most at risk for the virus did not have to compete with the rush of shoppers for these items.

“The move has been prompted by the unprecedented demand in supermarkets over the past week, which has seen many elderly and vulnerable people in the community missing out on vital items they may need when they shop,” the company announced on Monday morning, local time.

Woolworths is one of the largest supermarket chains in Australia, with close to 1,000 stores spread across the country.

The supermarket chain had been in the news this week due to some of the tensions from shoppers trying to stock up on essential items. As The Inquisitr reported, one viral video showed a group of women fighting over a package of toilet paper inside a store. Police said two women were arrested in the incident. The officers implored people not to panic as they prepared to stay inside during the outbreak of the disease.

“It’s just bad behavior by people that are panicking, and there’s no need for that panic,” acting Inspector Andrew New told 9News.

Many Australians have taken measures to self-quarantine in an effort to slow the spread of the virus, though the country has not yet taken the more drastic measures that some of the hardest-hit nations have taken. In Europe, several countries entered lockdowns, telling people to stay in their homes and only leave for essentials like trips to shop for food and picking up medicine.

As the 7 News report added, many elderly shoppers in Australia had experienced difficulty finding essential items in Woolworths stores, despite the supermarket chain’s best efforts to keep shelves stocked. The stores will open for the general public starting at 8 a.m., after the shopping hour for the elderly and those with disabilities.

“Now, more than ever, we need to be kind to each other,” the company’s managing director, Claire Peters, told 7 News.