Australian Prime Minister Says ‘Stop Hoarding’ Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

March 17, 2020 Updated: March 17, 2020

Prime Minister Scott Morrison issued what he called a blunt message to Australians amid mass panic buying due to coronavirus concerns across the country, which has seen supermarkets stripped of toilet paper, pasta, rice, and frozen food, as well as tinned and other dried goods.

“On bulk purchasing of supplies: Stop hoarding. I can’t be more blunt about it. Stop it,” he said.

“It is not sensible, it is not helpful and it has been one of the most disappointing things I have seen in Australians’ behavior in response to this crisis,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

“It’s ridiculous, it’s un-Australian, and it must stop.”

“That is not who we are as a people. It is not necessary. It is not something that people should be doing. What it does is it is distracting attention and efforts that need to be going into other measures, to be focusing on how we maintain supply chains into these shopping centers.”

scott morrison
Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during a press conference in Sydney, Australia on March 13, 2020. (Brook Mitchell/Getty Images)

Morrison also waved off fears of a possible lockdown that exacerbated grocery shoppers’ panic buying. “As I have said, we’re putting in place scalable and sustainable measures.”

“Many measures in place you have to be prepared to put in place for six months,” he later said.

Panic buying has caused stress and frustration amongst elderly shoppers, many of whom find it difficult to make frequent visits to supermarkets for essential goods. In many cases, particularly for toilet paper, the shelves are often bare.

Morrison also urged people not to abuse staff.

Australia’s major supermarket chains have banded together to plead with customers to be considerate of each other and stop abusing staff.

The call made in newspaper advertisements across the country came after more footage emerged online of customers verbally attacking retail staff because they couldn’t find the goods they wanted in-store.

“So we ask you to please be considerate in the way you shop,” the ad says. “We understand your concerns, but if you buy only what you need and stick to the product limits it helps everyone, especially the elderly and people with disability. No one working or shopping in any of our stores should experience abusive or aggressive behavior.”

Aldi, Coles, IGA, and Woolworths said they were doing everything they could to get as much produce on the shelves as possible, often under difficult circumstances.

Coles on Wednesday held its first “community hour” for seniors and pension card holders from 7-8 a.m. at its stores nationwide, before opening to everyone else.

People with government-issued concession cards on Tuesday flocked to Woolworths, which implemented a similar measure, and IGA is considering whether to roll out the same.

Coles is trying to employ more than 5,000 casual workers to help restock its supermarkets quicker under a fast-tracked induction process and will hire more Coles Online delivery van drivers.

Woolworths fresh food director Paul Harker said there was no shortage of goods in Australia but it was a logistics puzzle to get products to stores in line with the pace and demand.

Information for Australians

The prime minister has activated the Emergency Response Plan for Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

To find out how the Australian Government is managing COVID-19, go to Government response to the outbreak.

If you’re planning to go overseas, keep up to date with the latest advice for travellers.

Advice for Slowing Coronavirus Spread

  • Practice social distancing—keep a space of 1.5 metres between you and other people
  • Stop shaking hands
  • Stop hugging, except for family members
  • Practice good hand hygiene, washing frequently with soap for 20 seconds, including before and after eating and after going to the toilet
  • Sit in the back seat of taxis or car-share rides such as Uber
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your elbow, and throw out tissues
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitisers
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces, door handles and frequently used objects such as mobiles, keys, and wallets
  • Stay home if you are unwell
  • Avoid large public gatherings if they’re not essential (gatherings of more than 500 people outdoors and 100 people indoors are now banned)
  • Minimise physical contact, especially with people at higher risk such as older people and people with existing health conditions
  • Keep children away from grandparents and other at-risk people
  • There is no need to wear a surgical mask if you are well
  • Keep sending children to school but make sure they understand the importance of regular hand-washing

Epoch Times staff contributed to this report.