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Shoppers Urged To Remain Calm As Coles, Woolworths Cut Opening Hours To Restock Shelves

Doors will shut at major supermarkets at 8pm every night, with staff needing more time to restock shelves and clean stores to deal with the surge in demand for products.

Both Coles and Woolworths will open only to seniors and those with disabilities during the first hour of each day, and both supermarkets will close earlier than usual for the foreseeable future.

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"Coles supermarkets will temporarily change their trading hours to open 7 am to 8 pm on weekdays, with the first hour of trade open exclusively to customers who hold a government-issued Pensioner Concession Card, Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, Companion Card and Health Care Card," the supermarket said on Monday.

"Supermarkets will also close no later than 8 pm to give our team members the time and space to extensively clean our stores and replenish the shelves for customers the next day."

Toilet paper aisles nationwide have been cleared out due to coronavirus fears. Image: Instagram

Woolworths earlier announced it would close its stores early from 8 pm Wednesday night, to give staff time to restock shelves.

The decision followed an impassioned plea from The Project's Lisa Wilkinson, who called for more help for vulnerable Australians.

The reduced operating hours come after supermarkets nationwide have consistently been cleaned out of essential items like toilet paper, pasta, rice and baby products as people stock up over coronavirus fears.

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"The steps we are taking will help safeguard the wellbeing of our customers and team members while ensuring we can continue to provide groceries for the Australian community, as more customers prepare for the possibility of staying at home," A Coles spokesperson said.

Coles will "temporarily" suspend home delivery for most customers, only offering the option to "the most vulnerable and those isolated".

A spokesperson said the supermarket made the decision so it could dedicate its delivery vans "to those in genuine need", also announcing it would temporarily cancel options through UberEats and also its Click & Collect facility.

"We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience that this will cause and a further announcement about this will be made in the coming days," the spokesperson said.

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Woolworths will "temporarily" pause home delivery in most parts of Victoria, and Delivery Now and Pick up options are also temporarily cancelled.

To keep up with demand, Coles will also employ more than 5000 new casual workers.

"This will allow us to serve more customers and replenish shelves faster while offering employment opportunities for Australians working in other industries impacted by COVID-19," a spokesperson said.

Coles in Chatswood, on Sydney's Lower North Shore has had its shelves stripped bare. Image: 10 News First

Coles CEO Steven Cain urged customers to remain calm and "shop as they normally would".

"Coles is taking all possible steps to improve the level of stock on our shelves for the community," he said.

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"Our team members, suppliers and transport partners have been working as hard as possible delivering more products to stores every day and replenishing shelves of popular products such as toilet paper, long-life pantry staples and healthcare items as quickly as possible."

Cain also called for customers to respect staff and to be patient in long queues.