Finance Consumer Panic buying eases but supermarkets go for more rules ahead of Easter rush

Panic buying eases but supermarkets go for more rules ahead of Easter rush

supermarket assault coronavirus queue
Police say the fight began when the woman was told to observe social distancing measures. Photo: AAP
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Australians have eased off panic buying at supermarkets and are changing their behaviour to comply with social distancing rules designed to stop the spread of coronavirus.

The latest Essential Research poll finds more people have limited their outings to social spaces, shops, restaurants and group events and stopped shaking hands or hugging people than a week ago.

About four-in-five of those surveyed are following health advice to stay home unless strictly necessary and to keep 1.5 metres from others.

Half have also cut down on their use of cash amid concerns money changing hands could be spreading the virus.

At the same time, the number of people who had bought extra groceries to stock their pantries dropped in the past week to less than two-in-five.

Those in regional areas were less likely to be stocking up on food.

The poll was released as the country’s major supermarket chains introduced further restrictions on shoppers ahead of the long Easter weekend.

Woolworths, Coles and Aldi all said they would limit the number of customers allowed in their stores and manage queues outside to ensure shoppers remained at least 1.5 metres apart from each other.

In a statement, Woolworths said it would use signs and traffic cones to tell customers where to line up, and the number of customers allowed in-store would be managed on a one in, one out policy.

The changes are being introduced this week.

“Depending on how busy the store is, we may limit the number of people entering the store from time to time. Customer limits will be specific to each location and based on the size of the store,” supermarkets managing director Claire Peters said.

“We know it may take some getting used to but we ask our customers to be patient with us during this time. Supermarkets overseas have successfully adopted similar measures.”

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Coles will role out similar measures this week. Chief operating officer Matt Swindells told Melbourne’s Triple M radio on Monday that customers would be asked to queue outside.

“We have people counting customers in and have people counting customers out,” he said.

The number of people allowed into each supermarket will depend on the size of the store.

supermarkets coronavirus queue
Social distancing measures at the Aldi checkout.

Aldi said it would allow 70-100 shoppers in each of its supermarkets, depending on size. There will be similar queuing measures, monitored by security guards.

Aldi is also installing plastic screens at its checkouts and hygiene stations with hand sanitiser and trolley wipes at store entries.

-with AAP