People are panic-buying water, sanitiser and other essentials, causing lengthy queues at many supermarkets after confirmation of the first coronavirus case in New Zealand. But experts are urging calm, and say there is no need for panic.

Queues were out the door at at least one Pak'nSave this morning and shelves were being cleared out, following similar lengthy queues at many Auckland supermarkets last night.

One shopper said it was as if people were "stocking up for the apocalypse".

At Pak'nSave Royal Oak in Auckland there were lengthy queues out the door of the supermarket by 7.30am and many items were out of stock.


A professor of public health has reassured Kiwis they should go about "business as usual" following the first confirmed case of coronavirus, and that risk of contraction is low.

University of Otago Professor of public health Michael Baker said: "For the moment, it's really just business as usual across New Zealand. We're not looking at community transmission at all, as I think, has been pointed out."

The chief executive of Foodstuffs - which owns PakN'Save, 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".

Alexia Russell was at Pak'nSave Wairau this morning to buy supplies for her son's 21st and was unaware of the crowds before she got there.

"I feel like I'm in a zombie apocalypse.

"I've never seen anything like this, I couldn't even get into the carpark."

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

She said people were queuing for the tills from the back of the supermarket.

"It's unbelievable. You've got people shopping in pairs with one person sitting in the queue and the other person racing around getting things and stuffing it in their trolley.
"I've never seen anything like it. It's absolutely nuts."


Russell said despite the queues everyone seemed calm and patient. Staff were repacking the shelves as quickly as they could but people ended up just taking items directly out of the cardboard boxes.

Many people posting on social media described panic-buying, while checkout operators said it was busier than Christmas time.

Shoppers stocking up at Pak'nSave, Lincoln Rd, Auckland. Photo / Supplied
Shoppers stocking up at Pak'nSave, Lincoln Rd, Auckland. Photo / Supplied

Another woman who was loading her car with baked beans said she tried to shop last night but did a lap of the car park before giving up on finding a spot and coming back this morning.

"It's crazy."

Another man in one of the many queues around the store said his wife was doing the rounds while he waited in line.

A man who was loading his boot with bottles of water, canned food and spam said he was stocking up his supplies following the confirmed coronavirus case in Auckland last night.


He wasn't worried about a potential outbreak but once people started panic-buying he thought he would jump on board so he didn't miss out.

Auckland mayor Phil Goff yesterday afternoon asked residents to remain calm.

"Health authorities are closely monitoring the situation in line with World Health Organisation guidance and I encourage Aucklanders to remain calm. The ministry will advise if any public health measures become necessary."

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

Shopper Raj told Newstalk ZB's evening host Marcus Lush that the queues at Royal Oak Pak'nSave last night in Auckland were huge.

"The lines are massive across all aisles - it's just crazy. I just gave up and came back home."

He says he saw a lot of different items in people's trolleys - but lots of tins and water.


"I just saw this half a kilometre line and gave up and came home. I'll be doing click and collect instead."

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One person at Pak'nSave Lincoln Rd, also in Auckland, said last night the aisles were "full of panic, with hand sanitiser and face masks sold out".

Another person posted pictures showing empty shelves and said it was like people were "stocking up for the apocalypse".

Massive queues at Pak'nSave in Albany. Photo / Facebook - Bacosa Lacsamana
Massive queues at Pak'nSave in Albany. Photo / Facebook - Bacosa Lacsamana

A woman at Albany Pak'nSave last night said she had been shopping there for three years and never seen anything like it.

"Even the cashier was telling us that it's more [customers] today than Christmas season."


Paul, who works at a New World on Auckland's North Shore, told Lush trade had been 30 to 40 per cent busier than normal on a Friday night.

"We had a customer come up to me and say they had to get out of Pak'nSave Albany because it was like Christmas Eve."

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

"They apparently had queues from checkout all the way back to the butchery department so they couldn't do their shopping there."

Paul said it started getting busy from around 5pm on Friday and people told him they were stockpiling food because of the coronavirus.

"I thought there must have been some special event on."

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

Henderson resident Lee Moraes, 32, arrived at Pak'nSave at 9.15pm and struggled to find a park. He then noticed all the trolleys were gone.


"I walked in and there were no trolleys left and I thought this is ridiculous, I only wanted to buy one thing: onions for a sausage sizzle. I had to wait in line for ages.

"There were people in masks all around and panic-buying stuff. Water was getting sold out."

"I tried to make a joke of it, like I said 'we're all going to die' and this lady was like 'aren't you scared, why are you not scared, you should be scared'."

He said it was sad people were so stressed.

"People were [talking about coronavirus] especially at the checkout point.

"It took me a good half an hour to get though [buying onions]. I was on the 12-item isle. But there were people waiting there for ages."


"They were still coming when I left. The car park was full."

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

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 have begun tracing other people they have been close to, including passengers on the flight.

Watch: Coronavirus case confirmed in NZ

Ministry of Health give update after first case of coronavirus in New Zealand. Video / minhealthnz