Woolworths will open its doors exclusively to the elderly and people with disabilities for a dedicated shopping hour, after panic buying due to the coronavirus stripped shelves of essentials items.
From Tuesday, concession cardholders will have exclusive access from 7am to 8am to buy groceries and other supplies.
All other shoppers will be granted access after 8am.
Panic buying in recent weeks sparked by the spread of COVID-19 in Australia has seen supermarkets stripped of toilet paper, pasta and other dried goods.
“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,” Woolworths Supermarkets Managing Director Claire Peters said.
"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.”
“We continue to encourage all Australians to be mindful of those in our communities who might need extra help at this time.”
Last week Woolworths announced they had begun working with Meals on Wheels in New South Wales to deliver toilet paper directly to elderly community members.
There were scenes of chaos at several Australian supermarkets over the weekend, as panic buying large saw large crowds rush to buy groceries and essential items.
NSW Police have arrested and charged one man over an alleged assault at a Bass Hill Woolworth’s in Sydney’s South West.
Vision of the incident was posted on social media, and appears to show a man being led out of the store before allegedly rushing back inside and into the queue.
Police were called to the scene and were told a 54-year-old man had been allegedly assaulted.
On Sunday evening they arrested a 39-year-old Georges Hall man, who has been charged with common assault.
Police do not believe the men were arguing over groceries.
Coles also introduces changes
Meanwhile, Coles has announced it will hire 5,000 new casual workers to restock empty shelves.
Coles supermarkets will also shut from 8pm to make sure shelves can be filled and cleaned for the following day.
In addition, ‘click and collect’ online orders will be largely suspended in order “to dedicate vans to … the most vulnerable and those isolated”.
“We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience that this will cause and a further announcement about this will be made in the coming days,” Coles CEO Steven Cain said.
The measures will come into effect on Wednesday.