17 Aug 2021

Covid-19: Supermarkets warn against panic buying

9:47 pm on 17 August 2021

Supermarkets are again urging people not to panic buy as New Zealand faces a nationwide return to level 4 lockdown.

After a new community case of Covid-19, expected to be the Delta variant, was discovered in Auckland today, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced New Zealand would be going into alert level 4 from midnight.

Auckland and Coromandel will be in alert-level 4 for seven days, with the rest of the country for just three days.

Police this evening said they were increasing visibility at supermarkets in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland to provide reassurance to the public and to workers after reports of lengthy queues.

"Police reiterate advice from our partner agencies to remain calm and that there is no need for panic buying," a police statement said.

People lining up to get into Meadowbank mall in the central east of the city, the Westfield mall at St Lukes and the Countdown supermarket in Mt Eden.

No caption

Photo: RNZ / Jean Bell

There were also queues forming at Balmoral testing centre.

Reporter Nick Truebridge was outside a Mt Eden supermarket and said there were about 100 people lined up, looking for the usual things, like toilet paper.

See all RNZ coverage of Covid-19

In Wellington CBD ahead of the government's announcement, reporter Ben Strang said there were hundreds of people lining up for supplies at New World Thorndon near Parliament.

"There have been hundreds upon hundreds of people trying to come in and get their emergency groceries .... just want to get their emergency supplies as quickly as possible.

"A lot of toilet paper coming out the door, I don't know if two-ply can stop Delta but obviously people are keen to get that as quickly as possible."

Strang said people were generally also wearing masks.

In Wanaka, shelves were emptied of chicken and bread, with big queues waiting at the checkouts.

Countdown supermarkets spokesperson Kiri Hannifin told Checkpoint they had reports that the supermarkets were getting busier as the evening wore on, but if New Zealanders simply shopped as normal everything would be fine.

"We feel quite confident tat we can keep our team and our customers safe," she said. "In terms of supply if eveyrone just shops as they normally would in a given day or week then we will have enough food and groceries for everybody.

"It really is up to us all to do the right thing and if we do and we shop normally then our stores will be absolutely fine."

Bread shelves emptied of products in Wanaka.

Bread shelves emptied of products in Wanaka. Photo: RNZ / Jeremy Rees

She told Checkpoint the company had been watching what the government has been saying in the last week about the risks posed by the Delta variant, and had put out a press release today saying they were prepared in case of an alert level change.

"We're anticipating that," Hannifin told RNZ. "But even if lockdown doesn't transpire tonight at least, if we're asked what did we do this afternoon, I can say that we put social distancing in place, we upped hygiene straight away."

"The stores are okay. Obviously we've been planning, scenario planning for a community case again and a community case that's Delta and we're in a great position, I guess, to not only have done it before in New Zealand ... but our business in Australia is deeply impacted by Delta at the moment with about 1000 team off just in New South Wales alone."

Empty chicken shelves at a Wanaka supermarket.

Empty chicken shelves at a Wanaka supermarket. Photo: RNZ / Jeremy Rees

New World owner Foodstuffs NZ's head of corporate affairs, Antoinette Laird, said the stores had plenty of groceries on the shelves.

"Fortunately, our North Island DC has plenty of extra capacity and the team have been holding extra volumes of key essential items should it be required in a case like this," she said.

"We are again asking customers to #shopnormal and be kind to our teams and each other.Our teams are preparing to move alert levels and we ask customers to be patient as we prepare to roll out the various safety precautions required to keep everyone safe.

"In the meantime we encourage everyone to scan the Covid Tracer App and wear masks to protect themselves and our teams.We will advise further after the government's announcement later this evening."

This is an official COVID-19 ALERT.

From 11:59pm tonight 17 August, ALL OF NEW ZEALAND moves to COVID-19 Alert Level 4.

The Alert Level will be reviewed after 3 days for all areas EXCEPT Auckland & Coromandel Peninsula which is likely to remain at Level 4 for an initial period of 7 days.

A community case of COVID-19 has been identified.

STAY HOME where possible & follow the Alert Level 4 guidelines. This will stop the spread of COVID-19 and SAVE LIVES.

Everyone is asked to:

Wear a mask and keep a 2 metre distance from others whenever you leave your home

If you are sick, call your doctor or Healthline on 0800 358 5453 for advice about getting tested

Keep on scanning QR code's whenever you leave your home

Practice good hygiene - wash hands often.

Services including supermarkets, pharmacies, clinics & petrol stations will stay open at Alert Level 4.

For more information on Alert Level 4 go to www.covid19.govt.nz.

RNZ is the statutory Lifeline Utility responsible for radio broadcasting under the Emergency Management Act 2002 and it has a memorandum of understanding with Government which has been activated to help deal with potential health issues related to the pandemic. RNZ's Lifeline Utility obligations do not affect our editorial independence as a public media organisation or the rigour of our news gathering and reporting operations.

As New Zealand's Lifeline Utility radio broadcaster, RNZ is required to maintain essential public information channels and news during times of national emergency and we are committed to supporting all New Zealanders.

We are also committed to looking after the health and well-being of our staff.

RNZ will continue to provide essential information services - broadcasting and publishing critical public service announcements on air, on our website and via social media channels. Comprehensive news will be available on air and via our website and digital services.

If necessary RNZ Concert and RNZ Pacific will carry news and information from RNZ National. Parliament will continue to be broadcast on the AM network when the House is sitting. As the country's public service media organisation, RNZ is committed to supporting all New Zealanders.

Kia Kaha - Stay Strong

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or call your GP - don't show up at a medical centre

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs