Australia caps toilet roll sales after panic-buying

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A nearly empty toilet roll aisle in MelbourneImage source, AFP
Image caption,
Customers have been flocking to supermarkets for toilet roll amid a spike in Covid-19 cases in Victoria

Supermarkets in Australia have reintroduced limits on purchasing toilet roll amid a rise in panic-buying.

On Friday, Coles imposed a one-pack limit on toilet roll and paper towels nationwide, while Woolworths has a two-pack limit on toilet roll.

The rush was triggered by a spike in Covid-19 cases in the state of Victoria.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said there was no reason to panic-buy.

Limits were previously imposed in March, when Australian shoppers anticipating a lockdown emptied supermarket shelves. Police were called to one store in Sydney after customers fought over toilet roll.

Victoria's tally of new Covid-19 cases has been in double digits for over a week. On Thursday, 33 new cases were confirmed.

Images and video posted to social media in recent days show people picking up multiple packs of toilet roll, leaving shelves nearly empty.

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The latest curbs began in Victoria on Wednesday when supermarkets announced a return to limited toilet roll sales.

Coles has also imposed limits on hand sanitiser and food staples like pasta and eggs in the state.

Woolworths reported a big rise in toilet roll demand in Victoria, but said other states are also panic-buying again. Customers at supermarkets in New South Wales and South Australia have reported empty shelves.

"We've regrettably started to see elevated demand for toilet roll move outside Victoria in the past 24 hours," said Woolworths' managing director of supermarkets Claire Peters.

"While the demand is not at the same level as Victoria, we're taking preventative action now to get ahead of any excessive buying this weekend."

The supermarket chain has ordered an extra 650,000 packs of toilet roll - a third more than normal.

Media caption,

Watch shoppers fight while panic buying toilet roll in Australia

Australia has reported 7,500 coronavirus cases in total and 104 deaths since the pandemic began.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday there was no need for customers to start panic-buying again.

"I'm sure [panic-buying] will pass, as it did last time. There's no need for it, and I think today it's important to reassure people the outbreak doesn't mean there's a problem. The response to that outbreak is strong, which means that Australians can have confidence," he said.

Mr Morrison and the country's chief medical officer said the virus remains under control, and plans to reopen Australia's economy will go ahead.