Show shopping compassion

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times

Elderly residents have begged the community to show compassion and restraint amid an unprecedented rush on supermarket stocks described as “panic-shopping”.

The Augusta-Margaret River shire was not immune to scenes familiar across the country during the past week of queues outside major retailers and a rush to buy essentials such as toilet paper, pasta, flour, and high-density proteins.

Premier Mark McGowan has moved to widen trading hours, and retailers have introduced early shopping times for the elderly, but some older residents still had little luck acquiring essential supplies.

Well-behaved crowds gathered outside stores on Wednesday and yesterday morning, though shoppers later noted most desired staples were sold out before the wider community had access.

Resident Ronnie Smith James was among those imploring residents for greater consideration.

“For four days now, I have unsuccessfully tried to buy one packet of toilet paper — that’s all I want,” she said online. “I know I’m not alone in this quest.”

Other residents have stepped into the gap to help older and disabled residents with shopping, but pack mentality has still caused headaches. Residents said people making multiple trips to stores were contravening purchase limits.

Meanwhile, some businesses which also supplied essential items shut down this week as part of quarantine measures. Some residents reported they had resorted to showering after using the toilet because of a lack of supplies.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River asked residents to remain calm.

“Keep a sensible perspective on the situation, show compassion toward one another, and support the elderly and those members of our community who are particularly vulnerable,” the Shire said.

Local restaurant owner Richard Moroney said residents had to keep supplies in perspective.

“Your major retailers and suppliers plan months ahead for increased demand at times such as Christmas,” he said.

“To expect the supply chain to cope with overnight increases in demand is unreasonable, for example, when seven weeks of loo paper is sold daily.”

Australian Medical Association WA president Andrew Miller said he understood why residents rushed when they were afraid.

“They’re anxious they’re not going to be able to provide for their families,” he told the Times.

“Reassurance from a politician when I’m living in Cowaramup isn’t going to help.”

Coles and Woolworths did not respond to questions about regional supply lines. Dr Miller said trucking goods remained “the most durable system” in a pandemic.

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