Major supermarkets are working hard to restock sold-out and high-demand items in the way of apparent panic buying after New Zealand's first case of coronavirus was confirmed.

The Ministry of Health confirmed a person in their 60s who flew in from Iran on Wednesday is in Auckland City Hospital with coronavirus after being taken there by family.

They are in an isolation ward and public health officials are tracing other people they have been close to, including passengers on the flight.

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The patient is said to be "stable and continuing to improve".

The scene at Pak'nSave Wairau Park today, with none of yesterday's lengthy queues.
The scene at Pak'nSave Wairau Park today, with none of yesterday's lengthy queues.

However, in the way of the announcement that the potentially deadly virus was present in New Zealand, Auckland supermarkets were hammered by customers stocking up on essentials like toilet paper and water.

At some stores, queues were out the door and people even lined up before opening.

Empty shelves at Pak'nSave, Lincoln Rd, Auckland. Photo / Supplied
Empty shelves at Pak'nSave, Lincoln Rd, Auckland. Photo / Supplied

Hand sanitiser has been unavailable at supermarkets for days due to the coronavirus scare.

A shopper at one Pak'nSave supermarket on Friday night said it was as if people were "stocking up for the apocalypse".

This morning a Foodstuffs spokesperson assured customers that the company was working hard to make sure essential items were available.

Foodstuffs own major supermarkets Pak'nSave, New World and Four Square.

"We have been prioritising deliveries over the weekend to stores which have seen increased customer demand," the spokesperson told the Herald.

"Since the coronavirus has emerged globally, demand for products including hand sanitiser has significantly increased.

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Shoppers at Pak'nSave Wairau.
Shoppers at Pak'nSave Wairau.

"We're working with suppliers to secure more stock as soon as possible, but volumes are limited due to international demand.

"Customers can expect stores to be out of stock completely or to have quantity limitations in place."

The spokesperson said if customers continued to shop "normally", stores would have no issues providing "the usual range of products".

"We would ask customers to resist the urge to stock up as this simply puts unnecessary pressure on stores," they said.

There had also been an increase in online shopping at Foodstuffs supermarket chains.

Shelves at Pak'nSave Wairau.
Shelves at Pak'nSave Wairau.

It is thought some people may be using that service in a bid to source items they suspect they might not get in person in store.

But that is not the case.

"Online shopping is a valuable resource for convenience and we have seen an uptake in shoppers using the service over the weekend," said the spokesperson.

"Stores are following the usual online protocols, so if a product is out of stock, the customer is contacted or offered an alternative, or if an alternative is not available, they are advised accordingly."

The Herald sought comment from Countdown on this issue.

General manager of corporate affairs, quality, safety and sustainability Kiri Hannifin was reluctant to comment but gave a short statement.

"We would urge customers not to stockpile," she said.

"There's no need to panic and we have systems in place and are working with our suppliers to manage demand so that we can provide the essentials that Kiwis want.

"We're also monitoring products, our stores and online shopping throughout the day and getting stock into stores as best we can.

"We'd reiterate that stockpiling isn't necessary and we'd encourage customers to simply shop as they normally would."

Lines are out the door at Pak'nSave at Royal Oak. Photo / Supplied
Lines are out the door at Pak'nSave at Royal Oak. Photo / Supplied

Earlier this weekend, authorities called for calm.

"Health authorities are closely monitoring the situation in line with World Health Organisation guidance and I encourage Aucklanders to remain calm," said Mayor Phil Goff.

"The ministry will advise if any public health measures become necessary."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also weighed in, telling the public to continue with everyday life.

"If you need a bottle of milk, go and get it. If you don't, do not react in any other way than you would any other day," she said.

"The public should be going about their daily lives."

The chief executive of Foodstuffs - which owns Pak'nSave, New World and Foodstuffs - tweeted his support and praise for his staff this morning. Chris Quin urged people to "just shop normally and we will make it work".

The Director General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, reinforced the importance of taking basic precautions.

This was a good time for New Zealand to prepare, not panic, he said.

The patient was identified after calling the Ministry of Health's Healthline.

They were advised to seek medical attention and went to Auckland Hospital's emergency department.

Two throat swabs came back negative.

Mass stocking up at Remuera New World. Photo / Supplied
Mass stocking up at Remuera New World. Photo / Supplied

A third test because of where the person had come from - Iran with the third highest number of deaths from the virus - and the fact the symptoms match the virus, came back positive.

The person is being treated in a negative pressure room to prevent any spread of the disease.