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Panic buying clears supermarket shelves

Coronavirus (COVID-19) fears have cleared supermarket shelves and sparked supply shortages of hand sanitisers.

Photos circulating this week have shown empty shelves in supermarkets across the country as people made a rush for essentials like toilet paper and baby goods, as well as canned foods, pasta and non-perishables.

However hand sanitiser, unsurprisingly, appears to be one of the most in-demand products and products have been difficult to locate.

Both Coles and Woolworths told C&I they were experiencing supply shortages.

“Coles is currently experiencing a shortage of some antibacterial handwashes and hand sanitiser products due to extremely high customer demand. While we are working closely with our suppliers to improve availability, some products may be temporarily out of stock,” a spokesperson said.

It was a similar story at rival Woolworths, who said: “We are currently experiencing shortages of some antibacterial hand wash and sanitiser products in our stores due to higher than usual customer demand. We are working very closely with our suppliers to get these products back on shelves as quickly as possible. We’re sorry for the inconvenience to our customers.”

It comes as the Australian Medical Association president Dr Tony Bartone this week warned against people panic buying goods, saying stockpiling sanitiser and face masks could result in front-line medical staff facing shortages.

A 78-year-old man who contracted the virus on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship became Australia’s first death after succumbing to the virus in a Perth hospital on Sunday.

NSW has seen the first Australian instances of person-to-person transmission this week. In one case, a woman aged in her 40’s contracted the disease from her brother who had recently returned from Iran, which has seen a sharp spike in cases.

A doctor who had been working at Ryde Hospital in Sydney’s north-west has also contracted the virus, despite not having travelled in recent months. Both patients are being treated at Sydney’s Westmead Hospital.

Statistics from Worldometer show there are currently more than 90,300 cases globally and 3,087 deaths.

The Australian government’s Smart Traveller website has issued a ‘do not travel’ warning for China and Iran and are urging travellers to ‘exercise a high degree of caution’ for South Korean, Japan, Italy and Mongolia.

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