Coronavirus panic buying prompts toilet roll rationing in Australia

Shelves are empty of toilet rolls in a supermarket in Sydney after fears of the coronavirus sparked panic buying on March 4, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 04 March 2020

Coronavirus panic buying prompts toilet roll rationing in Australia

  • Woolworths said the restriction of four packs of toilet paper per person would apply
  • Police had to be called to a Sydney supermarket at lunchtime Wednesday when a knife was drawn in a toilet paper aisle

SYDNEY: Australia’s biggest supermarket on Wednesday announced a limit on toilet paper purchases after the global spread of coronavirus sparked a spate of panic buying Down Under.
Woolworths said the restriction of four packs of toilet paper per person would apply “to ensure more customers have access to the products.”
Hand sanitizers will also be sold from behind the service counter and restricted to two per person.
“It will help shore up stock levels as suppliers ramp up local production and deliveries in response to higher-than-usual demand,” the company said in a statement.
Despite government assurances, there has been a run on some items at Australian supermarkets, with images on social media purportedly showing shelves stripped of goods and shoppers piling trolleys high with toilet paper.
Police had to be called to a Sydney supermarket at lunchtime Wednesday when a knife was drawn in a toilet paper aisle.
New South Wales Police confirmed officers went to the western Sydney supermarket but said there were no arrests and no injuries.
It is believed a knife was raised in the air by a startled hearing- and speech-impaired customer during a heated exchange over toilet rolls.
Retailers have also experienced shortages of masks and hand sanitizers sparked by fears over the deadly coronavirus outbreak, which has infected more than 90,000 people and killed more than 3,100.
The vast majority of cases have been in China, but South Korea, Italy and Iran have also emerged as hotspots.
Australia has reported 43 confirmed cases of the virus, including one death.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he had spoken to the country’s two major supermarket chains — Woolworths and its rival Coles — about their response to panic buying.
“I can understand why people may be concerned, and go to supermarkets, and do those sorts of things. But the advice is that’s not necessary,” he told 2GB Radio on Wednesday.


Philippines probes deadly police shooting of soldiers

Updated 57 min 59 sec ago

Philippines probes deadly police shooting of soldiers

  • Plainclothes soldiers were in pursuit of ‘bomb makers and suicide bombers’ from the Abu Sayyaf militant group

MANILA: Philippine authorities are investigating the deaths of four soldiers shot by police in the country’s restive south, with the defense minister vowing Thursday to “get to the bottom” of the incident.
The plainclothes soldiers were in pursuit of “bomb makers and suicide bombers” from the Abu Sayyaf militant group when they were attacked by police in the Muslim-majority province of Sulu on Monday, the army has said.
Army chief Gilbert Gapay has accused the nine officers involved of murdering the men, while Philippine National Police has described the shooting as a “misencounter.”
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the shootings were “a very unfortunate incident,” adding that the dead soldiers “were just doing their jobs.”
“We don’t want this to escalate. We will get to the bottom of this,” he said.
The country’s National Bureau of Investigation was probing the incident, and Lorenzana said the findings should be released soon.
The army has accused the police of firing on the soldiers even after they identified themselves as members of the military.
The officers have been detained while the investigation is under way, said Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano.
President Rodrigo Duterte will visit police and military commanders in the south, his spokesman Harry Roque said, without specifying when.
Abu Sayyaf is based in the south and has engaged in bombings as well as kidnappings of Western tourists and missionaries for ransom since the early 1990s.
They also have ties to Daesh militants seeking to set up a caliphate in Southeast Asia.