'Supermarkets will stay open': PM urges country not to panic-buy as we move to COVID-19 alert level 4

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has urged Kiwis not to sink into another panic-buying frenzy as the country moves into a higher coronavirus alert phase, insisiting "we will not run out of food". 

In an address on Monday she declared the nation had moved into COVID-19 alert level 3 and would rise to alert level 4 in 48 hours. The new status comes after the number of confirmed coronavirus cases shot to 102. 

The 48 hour respite allows those in non-essental services to ready themselves for working from home, for parents to preapre for schools to shut and for people to travel back home if they are elsewhere in the country. 

However, Ardern emphasised that among essential services like doctors, banking and service stations, supermarkets and pharmacies will be available throughout Aotearoa at every alert level.

"If you do not have immediate needs, do not go to the supermarket," she urged New Zealanders. "It will be there for you today, tomorrow, and the day after that."

'Supermarkets will stay open': PM urges country not to panic-buy as we move to COVID-19 alert level 4
Photo credit: Newshub.

Ardern says by not panic-buying, it gives supermarket workers a much-needed chance to restock shelves.

"There will be enough for everyone if we shop normally," she added. 

"Stock is not an issue in New Zealand. We will not run out of food.

"In the meantime, we will be working through practices like those used overseas to make sure that social distancing is maintained at supermarkets when people are undertaking essential shops."

In the lead-up to the Prime Minister's Monday announcement, panic-buying has been caused problems in supermarkets around the country. Worried Kiwis have been rushing to supermarkets and stripping the shelves bare of several different types of groceries as the COVID-19 pandemic panic sweeps the globe. 

On Sunday, Wellington City Mission worker Murray Edridge told Newshub the poor, elderly and disabled are going without, due to the excess of panic-buying. 

Several supermarkets like Pak'nSave and Countdown have introducted a 'two per customer' limit on essential grocery items to try and slow the rush.