Aussies panic buying beer, wine before lockdown, leads to rationing

Bar staff handing a customer takeaway beer while maintaining social distance. (AP pic)

SYDNEY: Hard-drinking Australians were told Tuesday to limit themselves to buying just 12 bottles of wine and two cases of beer a day as a coronavirus lockdown saw panic buying of alcohol.

Major retailers agreed to enforce new rules limiting individual purchases as Australians went on a booze-buying spree amid a shutdown of non-essential services – including pubs and bars.

“It was clear that uncertainty on the impact of supply… caused some people to purchase differently,” Retail Drinks chief executive Julie Ryan said in a statement launching the restrictions.

“We want to now send a clear message bottle shops remain an essential service and there are no issues of supply.”

Australian social media has been awash with video and pictures of shoppers loading supermarket trolleys with alcohol in the face of lockdowns that could last weeks.

According to the World Health Organisation data from 2016, Australians aged over 15 consumed an average 12.6 litres of alcohol a year – second only to the Czech Republic.

More recent data from various sources show they are now behind several European countries, with Moldova (15.2 litres), Lithuania, France and Russia among the biggest consumers.

The restrictions come as data from the Commonwealth Bank – one of the country’s biggest financial institutions – showed spending on alcohol at bottle shops jumped 86%  last week as drinkers migrated from bars to backyards.

“These temporary measures will ensure that all consumers can continue to access their favourite drinks when they decide to make a purchase,” Ryan said.