Here we go again: 24-hour trading starts as panic buying hits SA

Nov 19, 2020
Empty shelves are the outcome of panic buying that's started to hit South Australia hard. Source: Getty.

South Australian supermarkets have been granted extended trading hours to cope with the panic buying that stripped the state’s shelves in the hours leading up to the six-day hard lockdown to deal with the coronavirus outbreak in Adelaide’s northern suburbs.

Supermarkets are now allowed to open for 24 hours a day on weekdays, 12am to 9pm on Saturdays and 9am to 9pm on Sundays.

The 14-day exemption for trading hours comes after South Australians rushed to stock up on essential items on Wednesday ahead of the lockdown that started at midnight on Thursday. Onlookers shared footage on social media that showed long lines outside shopping centres and snapped photos of bare shelves as people desperately tried to stock up on supplies.

The last-minute panic buying saw shelves stripped of toilet paper, tissues, face masks, hand sanitiser, pasta, bread and rice. The chaotic scenes quickly became reminiscent of those witnessed in other states that experienced similar shortages earlier in the year, which forced supermarkets to issue buying restrictions on essential items.

Now, Coles and Woolworths in South Australia have also been forced to take similar measures with both supermarket giants announcing a two-pack limit on key products including rice, toilet paper, flour, pasta and sugar.

South Australians Treasurer Rob Lucas said on Wednesday night that the new round-the-clock trading hours would provide much-needed flexibility and “help support vital physical distancing measures”. He added that extended trading hours weren’t mandatory for all supermarkets but doing so would alleviate pressure when it came to completing the weekly shop.

Most shops are set to close around the state today in line with the new rules directed at stopping the Parafield cluster of coronavirus cases from spreading any further. Businesses allowed to remain open over the lockdown include supermarkets, petrol stations, bottle shops, post offices, banks, vets and medical services.

South Australian Police Commissioner Grant Stevens warned on Wednesday that the hours leading up to the lockdown would be challenging for retailers and urged South Australians to avoid panic buying.

“Supermarkets are going to be open beyond today, there is no need for people to rush to supermarkets, and if you do go shopping this afternoon, you are going to be managed by staff at the supermarkets,” he said. “This is completely unacceptable — there is no need for panic buying,” he said.

Adelaide Central Market saw some of the worst lines in the state with security guards instated to control crowds. Stevens asked that people be considerate despite the high-stress environment.

“If you’re going to go shopping, think about other people, treat everybody with respect and a bit of kindness,” he said. “Everybody’s in the same boat.”

The state has 35 active cases of coronavirus, but has recorded no new cases in the past 24 hours.

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