page headers Coronavirus

'Do not hoard', PM tells grocery shoppers

Shoppers are seen at Coles in Earlwood, in Sydney, Wednesday, March 18, 2020. Coles will on Wednesday hold its first

Shoppers are seen at Coles in Earlwood, in Sydney, Wednesday, March 18, 2020. Coles will on Wednesday hold its first "community hour" for seniors and pension card holders from 7am at its stores nationwide, before opening to everyone else. (AAP Image/Danny Casey)

Stop hoarding.

That's the blunt message from the prime minister to Australians in the wake of mass panic buying sparked by the spread of the coronavirus.

"It is not sensible, it is not helpful and it has been one of the most disappointing things I have seen in Australian behaviour in response to this crisis," Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

"It's ridiculous, it's un-Australian, and it must stop."

Bad behaviour and people emptying supermarket shelves are distracting officials' attention and diverting important resources to keeping shopping centre supply lines open, he said.

The prime minister read from the advice of senior medical officials, which discourages the panic-buying of food and other supplies.

Australia's major supermarket chains also 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.

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

"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 behaviour."

Mr Morrison also urged people not to abuse staff.

Coles on Wednesday held its first "community hour" for seniors and pension card holders from 7-8am 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 5000 casual workers to help restock its supermarkets quicker under a fast-tracked induction process, and will hire more Coles Online delivery van drivers.

Panic-buying sparked by the spread of coronavirus in Australia has seen supermarkets stripped of toilet paper, pasta, rice and frozen food, as well as tinned and other dried goods.

The issue 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.

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.

© AAP 2020