Australia's Top Doctor Says 'Stop Panic Buying' As Coronavirus Fear Hits Supermarkets
Some Australians are struggling to get hold of basic household items as Coronavirus panic buying has hit certain supermarkets and chemists, but shoppers have been told 'there's no reason' to do it.
Australian Medical Association president Dr Tony Bartone has warned the public's reaction to the deadly COVID-19 virus has been disproportionate.
Dr Bartone said "there's no reason to go out and panic buy," in response to images of supermarket shelves stripped bare of toilet paper, hand sanitiser, face masks and essential foods.
Speaking on ABC Melbourne, Dr Bartone said the healthcare sector had been hit with stress on supply of gloves and face masks to workers.
"We need to ensure that there is no breakdown in that supply chain to the frontline healthcare staff," he said.
"They're going to be crucial in the response over coming weeks and months."
The warning comes as News Corp reports families with young children are struggling to buy essential baby items, with a shortage of some baby formulas, nappies, wipes and hand sanitiser claimed by some worried parents.
Reports of panic buying have come from all over the country, with shoppers taking to Twitter to complain that they can't buy basic items such as pasta, rice, flour and toilet paper.
One major hospital has also told 10 News First has had to lock down key supplies to stop pilfering by staff.
'No Longer Possible To Prevent New Cases'
Meanwhile, the nation's chief medical officer says Australia can no longer keep new coronavirus cases out of the country.
Professor Brendan Murphy made the comment while explaining why Australia has banned arrivals from virus-hit Iran, but not two other major hotspots, Italy and South Korea.
"It is no longer possible to absolutely prevent new cases coming in, given the increasing changes in epidemiology around the country," Murphy told reporters on Monday.
Health Minister Greg Hunt also said any health and aged-care workers returning from Italy and South Korea must not go to work for two weeks because they could infect vulnerable populations at greatest risk of dying.
The warnings come as the number of countries hit by the coronavirus pass 60 and Australia reported its first death linked to the virus.
More than 87,000 people worldwide have been infected, and nearly 3000 have died as a result of the virus.
China, where the outbreak began two months ago, reported a slight uptick in new cases in the past 24 hours to 573, the first time in five days that the number exceeded 500. The cases remain almost entirely confined to the hardest-hit province of Hubei and its capital, Wuhan.
Many cases of the virus have been relatively mild, and some of those infected apparently show no symptoms at all. That can allow for easier spread.
Meanwhile, Stocks have been sent plummeting, with Wall Street suffering its worst week since the 2008 financial crisis.