Coronavirus: Disabled and poor going without thanks to panic-buying

Wellington City Mission is preparing for an influx of people needing help thanks to the economic downturn triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Missioner Murray Edridge expects big numbers to walk through their doors soon.

"We haven't seen the increase yet that we know is going to come... We know there's going to be a bigger demand coming soon, mainly for food." 

Economists are widely predicting the New Zealand economy, like many others around the world, will dive into a deep recession in the next few months

Last week the Government closed New Zealand's borders to foreigners for the first time in the country's history in an attempt to keep the virus out - but that's put the tourism industry, one of New Zealand's biggest money-makers, in peril.

At the same time, some Kiwis have been panic-buying, rushing to supermarkets and stripping the shelves bare. 

"It's important to note that with every level, supermarkets and essential services - like access to pharmaceuticals - will continue," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a rare address to the nation on Saturday.

"Shop normally. If we do that, our supermarkets will have time to restock their shelves."

Edridge says it is time to band together rather than selfishly stock up - as the Mission is also having trouble getting enough to give to the needy.

"Food supplies aren't yet where we want them to be. We are putting out a public appeal on Monday for more food and resources, and we are working very closely with our local council."

He says many of those seeking help also have health issues in addition to being in an economically perilous state.

And CCS Disability Action has been fielding numerous calls from people concerned about purchasing food and other necessities.

Chief executive David Matthews says panic-buying is having a horrible effect on their clients.

"We all know there are plenty of supplies there, but for some people I think their anxiety is getting the better of their common sense. I simply ask for people just to think of others."

Matthews says it will leave some people in vulnerable situations.

"There is quite naturally a high level of anxiety, particularly with disabled people who have medical fragility."

COVID-19 - the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus - has killed nearly 13,000 people in the past couple of months. New Zealand has so far confirmed 52 cases, but it's unclear yet whether it is spreading in the community. 

No one has died in New Zealand from the disease yet. Three are in hospital, all stable.