Call for calm amid Coronavirus panic

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FOOD STOCKPILING: Some cuts of meat has been in high demand, including chicken and beef mince.

MOUNT Gambier’s peak business group has called for people not to “panic” amid the coronavirus health crisis.

The caution comes as hundreds of consumers in the Blue Lake city continue to panic buy, stripping certain foods and goods from supermarket shelves.

Supermarkets have been hit with long queues and “unprecedented” sales as COVID-19 fuels anxiety across the community.

Shoppers continue to purchase a string of items, including toilet paper, cleaning products, baked beans, white flour, some meats, paper towel/tissues, hand sanitiser, canned food and nappies.

A number of empty shelves could be seen at supermarkets yesterday across the Blue Lake city.

In response, supermarkets have swept in a number of restrictions to slow panic.

Mount Gambier Chamber of Commerce president Hayley Neumann said businesses were now faced with navigating through uncharted waters.

“There is no point sugar coating what’s happening in the world around us,” Ms Neumann said.

“The flow on effect of the novel coronavirus, as well as the recent bushfires, is likely to create uncertainty throughout your business and the community.”

She said there was also the looming potential of staff absences, downturn in sales, delays in stock and supplies.

“This may have huge impacts economically and emotionally as well,” Ms Neumann said.

The business leader said the message was “not to panic and stay informed”.

It is also imperative businesses understand their rights and responsibilities as well as be prepared.

“Making important decisions now and having conversations, not only within your business, but with fellow business operators allows for there to be less uncertainty in our community and hopefully smooths the journey ahead,” Ms Neumann said.

“At the moment it is business as usual while being vigilant, in Mount Gambier, let’s hope it stays that way.”

Business operators can gain more information from the Fair Work Ombudsman – Coronavirus and Australian workplace as well the Australian Government Department of Health – Coronavirus (COVID-19).

The federal and South Australian governments have started releasing details regarding financial support and assistance for business.

Business operators are also urged to consult their accountant about what support is available.

Meanwhile, Woolworths Supermarkets has introduced temporary measures to support the shopping needs of the elderly and people with disability.

From today until at least Friday, supermarkets will be open exclusively for the elderly and those with a disability to shop from 7am to 8am, where permitted.

The move has been prompted by the unprecedented demand in supermarkets over the past week, which has lead to many elderly and vulnerable people in the community missing out on vital items they may need when they shop.

Woolworths Supermarkets will open to all customers from 8am.

Access to the store before this time will require a relevant government issued concession card.

“While we’ll continue to do our very best to restock our stores during this period of unprecedented demand, we know many of our elderly customers have been missing out on essential items when they shop,” Woolworths Supermarkets managing director Claire Peters said.

“This temporary measure will give them and those with a disability, the opportunity to shop before our stores officially open – helping them obtain the essential items they need most in a less crowded environment.

“We continue to encourage all Australians to be mindful of those in our communities who might need extra help at this time. Now – more than ever – we need to be kind to each other, especially to those most vulnerable.

“We’d like to thank our customers for their patience and apologise for any inconvenience caused by the revised opening hours.”

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