Huge crowds have descended on supermarkets and liquor stores across the country on Monday as people attempt to stock up on supplies before the country goes into lockdown on Wednesday.

One liquor store owner said he'd sold more alcohol on Monday than at Christmas time.

Pak'nSave Wairau Park closed temporarily due to too many people wanting to get in, and a queue at Pak'nSave Sylvia Park snaked right through the mall stretching about 70 metres long. Staff members were hastily putting up signs urging people to shop normally.

Customers queueing at the Pak N Save Wairau Road Auckland. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Customers queueing at the Pak N Save Wairau Road Auckland. Photo / Brett Phibbs

COMMENT: Your panic-buying is putting other Kiwis at risk

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The Trusts in West Auckland said its liquor outlets were open but experiencing high demand with team members at the front of shops managing the crowds.

Only three customers were allowed in stores at a time and only contactless payment was being accepted.

"Our aim is to continue to serve you in the safest manner possible for you and your team members. We ask that you are patient and treat our team members with kindness and respect as they work through this," a statement said.

Customers wait to be allowed inside the Pak N Save at Wairau Park. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Customers wait to be allowed inside the Pak N Save at Wairau Park. Photo / Brett Phibbs

People were also queuing outside butchers and pharmacies.

Westmere Pharmacy had set up a counter at the door as they expected the number of customers to increase. Unichem Te Atatu South is only allowing two people in at a time.

The Westmere Pharmacy has set up a temporary door counter. Photo / Alex Robertson
The Westmere Pharmacy has set up a temporary door counter. Photo / Alex Robertson

Life Pharmacy Glenfield owner Seema Rambisheswar said they had been "snowed under" since Saturday's announcement on the alert system.

They were allowing only five customers in at a time, but people expected their prescriptions to be ready at once.

"It's just crazy here," she said.

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Since Monday's announcement there had been more customers wanting retail items.

A queue of customers outside the Westmere Butcher on West End Road, Auckland. Photo / Alex Robertson
A queue of customers outside the Westmere Butcher on West End Road, Auckland. Photo / Alex Robertson

Rambisheswar wanted people to know the pharmacy would remain open, and there was no need to panic.

"We will be here for them," she said.

Countdown and Foodstuffs stores which include New World, Pak'nSave, Four Square, Gilmour's and Trent's said the stores will remain open.

Foodstuffs has warned operating hours may be reduced depending on the store and they would be working to ensure staff and customers remain 1.5 metres apart.

Staff will also start wearing masks and there will be perspex protective screens at checkouts. People were also being asked to shop alone in a bid to reduce the number of people in the stores or to shop online.

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Countdown managing director Natalie Davis said the stores would remain open and urged kindness to staff who were working incredibly hard under difficult circumstances.

Focus: Shoppers rush to their local supermarkets after the government raised the coronavirus alert status to level three. Video / Supplied

Countdown was getting essential products on the shelves first before non-essential items and had all its trucks on the road.

Priority was being given to existing online customers over 70 and it was working hard to expand this to other vulnerable customers who needed it for health reasons or because they were unable to get into our stores.

Further restrictions would be in place from midday tomorrow to make shopping safer for everyone, Davis said.

People were being told to keep a trolley distance apart from each other and to follow new floor markings at checkouts aimed at maintaining distance.

Customers were also urged to use Paywave where possible and follow strict hand-washing routines prior to coming into stores.

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Davis again urged people not to panic buy and stockpile more than they needed.

"This isn't fair for other New Zealanders and there's no need - we will remain open as we always have and there will always be food."

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