Coronavirus: Countdown removes 'two per person' limits on key items

New Zealand supermarket shoppers can now stock up on alcohol, meat and fruit after Countdown removed its limit of two items per person on a range of products.

The 'two per person' restrictions no longer apply to deli, seafood or Easter products either, Countdown says. For wine, beer and bakery items, the limit is eased to four per person.

The move comes as Countdown eases the stringent rules it put in place to control demand amidst the coronavirus crisis. The changes are an effort to encourage shoppers to visit the supermarket less frequently.

However some high-demand products - including toilet paper, rice, dried pasta, hand sanitiser and female hygiene items - will still be under the 'two per person' limit.

Body wash, painkillers, baby formula, household cleaner, canned beans and spaghetti, UHT milk, frozen vegetables and paper towels also remain under the same restrictions.

The change comes as demand starts to return to normal levels for the first time since Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced New Zealand would be escalating its COVID-19 response to alert level 4 last Monday.

That announcement triggered panic-buying at supermarkets across the country, with queues stretching out the doors and reports of some shoppers waiting for up to an hour just to buy groceries.

In addition to its changes to product limits, Countdown has also announced it is opening an hour earlier to emergency services and medical personnel.

"We hope that we can take a little bit of pressure off their week  and make sure that when they get home after working long hours they will have the essential supplies they need," health and safety general manager Kiri Hannifin said.

The earlier opening hours for these workers will begin on Thursday.