As the nationwide lockdown looms, it appears Kiwis have started to ditch the shops for their homes with the last-minute scramble to stock up easing this afternoon.

The Government announced on Monday that the country will progress to alert level 4 at 11.59pm tonight in a bid to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

People flocked to supermarkets, petrol stations, liquor stores, even gun outlets following the announcement, despite Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern urging people to stay calm and not to panic-buy.

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But the busy scenes began to calm today, with a spokesman from Pak'n Save Ormiston confident shoppers had finally got the message.

"Panic-buying has definitely calmed down," he said.

"It's a lot more controlled today than it was on previous days ... it's busy, but it's controlled."

BP Onewa Rd Store Manager Herwinder Singh said it had been a quieter afternoon than expected.

"People aren't panicking anymore. The Government is taking the right steps so I assume people are thinking everything will be fine," he said.

"There are no major queues, it's still been busy as people are wanting to fill up their cars but the gas station has remained relatively normal."

Foodstuffs, which includes Pak'nSave and New World, have introduced Perspex screens at checkouts, and contactless payments.

It is also encouraging customers to shop online where possible, introducing a contactless online shopping delivery for customers who are self-isolating, vulnerable or unwell.


Meanwhile, Countdown customers are being told to pack their own groceries and are also being encouraged to use payWave where possible.

Stages of alert
Stages of alert

"We understand that for some people, these changes will be unsettling but we want to do all we can to help prevent the spread of Covid-19," Countdown's general manager for health and safety Kiri Hannifin said today.

"We're determined to keep providing New Zealanders with access to our stores, while also making sure we're providing our team and customers a safe and healthy environment to shop in."

The Government last night issued a clarification on what is being deemed essential services, and confirmed that liquor stores and The Warehouse are to close their doors for the four-week lockdown period.

Earlier, shoppers were seen panic buying plants, clothes and games at The Warehouse Lyall Bay, with queues nearly the length of the store.

Liquor King said it had experienced "unprecedented demand".