Australia

Woolworths puts buying limit on toilet paper amid coronavirus panic

Empty toilet paper shelves at a Coles supermarket. Source: SBS News

Shoppers hoping to stock up on toilet paper due to fears of an impending coronavirus pandemic will now be limited to four packs per person, Woolworths has announced.

Australian supermarket giant Woolworths has moved to put an end to shoppers panic buying toilet paper, announcing that it has introduced a four-packet limit per person.

The decision follows a spike in demand for non-perishable grocery items as Australians prepare for a potential coronavirus pandemic and mass lockdowns. 

In a statement on Wednesday morning, Woolworths said the cap was intended to "ensure more customers have access to the products".

Photos of empty supermarket shelves have been circulating on social media, causing panic, despite reassurances from New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard that there was no need for people to stockpile supplies.

"It [the limit] will help shore up stock levels as suppliers ramp up local production and deliveries in response to higher than usual demand," a Woolworths spokesperson said.

"Our teams are continuing to work hard on restocking stores with long-life food and groceries from our distribution centres. "

The purchasing cap will apply in stores across Australia and online, with Woolworths apologising for the temporary shortages. 

On Tuesday, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Australia's largest toilet paper manufacturer, Kimberly-Clark, was working 24-hours a day to replenish supplies.

Woolworths and Coles have also consulted with Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday, who also urged the public to remain calm despite Australia reporting its first cases of community spread coronavirus.

A Coles spokesperson said in a statement on Wednesday the supermarket giant was "in ongoing contact with suppliers, government stakeholders and transport partners to determine how best to improve availability on popular products".

"We have increased deliveries from our distribution centres and our teams are working hard to fill the shelves as quickly as possible," the spokesperson said.

"While there may be some temporary stock shortages, the vast majority of products in our stores and via Coles online remain available for customers.”

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