The Covid-19 coronavirus strain is continuing to spread across the globe, with the number of confirmed cases rising each day.
In response to the outbreak, supermarkets are finding their shelves completely cleared out as a result of bulk buying by panicked shoppers.
As stores struggle to keep up with demand, some supermarkets are looking out for the more vulnerable members of society.
‘Dedicated shopping hour’
A supermarket chain in Australia has responded to the growing concern around panic buying amid the Covid-19 outbreak by opening their stores exclusively for elderly people and those with disability for one hour in the morning.
Woolworths Group, the countries biggest store, tweeted, “We’re launching a dedicated shopping hour in our stores to help support the needs of the elderly & people with disabilities in the community.
“From tomorrow (March 16) until at least Friday, we’ll be opening exclusively for them to shop from 7-8am, where permitted.”
Australia has introduced some social distancing measures in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus, with a ban on social gatherings of more than 500 people and many offices asking their employees to work from home.
Ireland store follows suit
In Ireland, the Kennedy Centre Facebook page posted the announcement online, saying, “Iceland Foods at Kennedy Centre will be opening their store between 8-9am for the elderly commencing Tuesday 17 March.
“Could the wider public please respect this hour, and understand that this time is allocated for elderly people only.”
The post was met with praise from Facebook users in the comments, with one saying, “Well done Iceland, every other shopping market should be doing this”, followed by clapping emojis.
“Brilliant news hearing this. Well done Iceland. Let’s hope other stores follow this. Shame on those who are panic buying and not thinking of the elderly,” said another commenter.
These are the symptoms of coronavirus (Photo WHO)
Calls for UK stores to do the same
With news of various shops setting aside time dedicated to elderly and vulnerable customers, there have been calls for other big supermarkets in the UK to do the same.
Taking to Twitter, users tagged the likes of Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Morrisons and more in their tweets, asking them to consider implementing the change.
One Twitter user wrote, “Supermarkets should dedicate the first hour of opening to the elderly. Start the day with newly sanitised trolley handles, doors tills, fully stocked, no panic etc. @Tesco @sainburys @AldiUK @LidlGB @Morrisons @Asda”
“Hope you are going to follow @IcelandFoods store in Ireland and open just for seniors for a few hours early? @tesco @waitrose @asda @sainsburys #coronavirus #coronavirusuk #iceland well done,” tweeted another.
Tweeting a notice in French, another user wrote, “This would be a very good idea to adopt @LidlGB @AldiUK @IcelandFoods @Morrisons @Teso @asda. In France they are opening their stores exclusively for people aged 70 plus to get their shopping before the animals grab everything from under their noses #justsaying”
What are UK stores doing?
The British Retail Consortium (BRC), which represents supermarket groups, states that retailers have come together to assure their customers extra steps are being taken to protect shoppers during the outbreak - but to also call on them to be considerate.
In a letter signed by Sainsbury’s, Lidl, Tesco, Waitrose, Aldi, Iceland and more, it states that while they are working hard with the government to ensure shelves are restocked with essentials quickly, they all “need your help too”.
“We would ask everyone to be considerate in the way they shop. We understand your concerns but buying more than is needed can sometimes mean that others will be left without,” the letter says.
“Together we can make sure we are looking out for family, friends, neighbours. Together we will care for those around us and those who are elderly, vulnerable or choosing to remain home.”
The letter ends by stating that “keeping you and everyone who works with us safe will always be our priority”.