Australian supermarket giant Woolworths will introduce a dedicated shopping hour for the elderly and people with disabilities, prompted by the "unprecedented demand" for groceries during the coronavirus pandemic.
The initiative will be between 7am and 8am from Tuesday, March 17 until at least Friday, "exclusively" for people with a government-issued concession card.
"The move has been prompted by the unprecedented demand in supermarkets over the past week, which has seen many elderly and vulnerable people in the community missing out on vital items they may need when they shop," Woolworths said in a statement this morning.
The stores will open to all customers from 8am.
"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."
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Prime Minister Scott Morrison praised the dedicated shopping hour.
"Common sense, great idea, well done," he said.
"Let's look after each other and help each other out."
In New Zealand, Woolworths operates Countdown supermarkets and Countdown's general manager for health and safety has told NZME that there are no plans to offer the same service in NZ.
Kiri Hannifin told NZME that there was no need for such a service and customers should shop as they normally would, but they would be monitoring the situation in the days and weeks ahead.
The Herald has approached Foodstuffs, which operates New World and Pak'nSave, for comment.
- Additional reporting, NZ Herald