Long lines have formed outside supermarkets after Coles, Woolworths and IGA began limiting the number of customers inside stores in a bid to allow physical distancing and keep flattening the curve of Covid-19 infections during the Easter rush.
The Thursday before Easter is traditionally one of the busiest days for supermarkets, as people stock up for the weekend.
However, in an attempt to avoid overcrowding, a number of Australian supermarkets have instituted ‘one in one out’ policies.
On Sunday, Woolworths announced it “will be limiting the number of customers allowed in store from time to time”.
Woolworths supermarkets managing director Claire Peters said the number of customers allowed into each store at any one time will be dependent on its size.
Competitor Coles is introducing similar measures.
“Team members will be at store entrances to provide assistance and let you know when it is OK to come in,” chief executive Steven Cain said.
IGA said in a statement that some supermarkets may be limiting numbers during the lead up to Easter, however, did not include specifics on which stores or how it would be enforced.
Physical distancing rules across Australia state that there must be at least four square meters per person in any inside space.
In a video, Coles said some customers may be asked to queue when they arrive. The video suggested some stores would have markings on the ground directing people where to stand while queuing in order to properly space out the line. A spokesperson said in-store security would help maintain physical distancing.
Woolworths said that they would “work closely with local centre management security and police to help manage queues outside the store at peak times to ensure customers are keeping at least 1.5 meters apart from each other.”
Similar rules have already been introduced at Bunnings. Posts on social media show lines stretching for hundreds of metres, and customers complaining of hour-long waits to enter stores.
“The lines at Bunnings are enormous, they’re larger than most Dreamworld rides,” one person posted to Facebook.
“Victoria police, if you want revenue just go down to your local Bunnings and ask what people are there for. If they are there to buy a plant then hit them up for a fine.”
A spokeswoman for Coles said in order to combat lengthy wait times, the company has been encouraging customers to do their Easter weekend shopping earlier to avoid stores being overwhelmed on Thursday.
Business hours for the major supermarkets have been extended to 10pm, and some Coles stores will remain open to midnight over the Easter weekend.
In addition to these measures, from Monday, disabled Australians on the NDIS scheme will be able to access priority home delivery from Australia’s major supermarkets.
NDIS participants will be sent a unique code by SMS, which they can enter at the end of their online shopping order to access the program.
This is in addition to supermarkets instituting priority shopping hours for elderly and disabled people, and front line medical workers.