Coronavirus: Queues at supermarkets as panic-buying ramps up

Panic-buying appears to have kicked in, with confirmation the coronavirus COVID-19 has arrived in New Zealand.

And supermarket bosses are urging people to "resist" the urge to stock up.

Lines at a Pak'nSave supermarket in Auckland were out the door on Friday evening, following the confirmation of New Zealand's first case.

A person who'd recently been to Iran arrived on an Emirates flight on Tuesday, feeling sick. Their family called Healthline, and testing showed they were positive for the virus, which has killed nearly 3000 people worldwide.

The 60-year-old New Zealand citizen is currently being cared for at Auckland City Hospital.

Newshub visited the Pak'nSave in Botany on Friday night and saw people with trolleys lined up on the footpath outside, some wearing masks. 

Staff were reportedly only letting in a few people at a time. 

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There were also reportedly massive queues at supermarkets in Albany, on Auckland's North Shore, and Remuera. 

Queueing began outside Pak'nSave in Royal Oak before 7:30am on Saturday morning, according to reports.

People queue to get into a Pak'nSave.
People queue to get into a Pak'nSave. Photo credit: Newshub.
Queues inside a Pak'nSave.
Queues inside a Pak'nSave. Photo credit: Newshub.
People outside the Botany Pak'nSave.
People outside the Botany Pak'nSave. Photo credit: Newshub.

One person told NZME they showed up to the Henderson Pak'nSave in west Auckland after 9pm, only to find there were no trolleys available. It reportedly took him half an hour to get through the queues, when all he wanted was onions for a sausage sizzle.

A spokesperson for Foodstuffs told Newshub management of the Botany store "took the decision to regulate the number of incoming customers in-store, this was due to a sudden influx".

"This decision was taken for about half an hour to help clear the volume of people in-store, and the decision was made for the safety and comfort of customers.

"If customers continue to shop normally stores will have no issues providing the usual range of products. We would ask customers to resist the urge to stock up as this simply puts unnecessary pressure on stores."

The Ministry of Health insists chances of an outbreak in the community remain low.

Professor Michael Baker of the Department of Public Health at the University of Otago said health officials' handling of the first case has been "exemplary".

"This case is a warning to New Zealand that we cannot be complacent about the global Covid-19 pandemic that will affect most countries this year.

 "It shows that we are now entering the next stage of our pandemic plan, which is the ‘stamp it out’ stage of identifying and controlling cases and their contacts, and investigating and controlling chains of transmission.

 "Fortunately, both Australia and NZ have so far not seen community transmission.  But we must prepare for this eventuality."

Virus expert Professor Miguel Quiñones-Mateu of the University of Otago said people need to "continue with their daily lives", but pay "extra attention to normal hygiene" and try to avoid touching their faces with "uncleaned hands".