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Coronavirus: Two charged over Woolworths toilet roll fight


Two Sydney women have been charged with affray following a fight in supermarket over toilet roll.

Video of the incident, filmed yesterday in a Woolworths store in Chullora in Sydney’s south west, was watched by hundreds of thousands of people after it was posted online.

Staff were forced to intervene to break up the brawl.

On Sunday morning, New South Wales Police said they had charged two women following the altercation.

A 49-year-old women was allegedly assaulted in the incident. Police said she was uninjured.

“At about 8pm (on Saturday), two women attended Bankstown Police Station and spoke with investigators,” Police said in a statement.

Two Bankstown women, aged 23 and 60, were issued court attendance notices for affray.

Both are due to appear at Bankstown Local Court on Tuesday 28 April 2020.

The incident was one of a number reported at Australian supermarkets as the desperation for toilet paper, which is not in short supply but is being purchased in far higher quantities, reached absurd levels.

The Chullora video showed one woman punching another at least once as a nearby crowd screams in astonishment. The fight occurred at 7am yesterday.

Clutching grocery bags alongside a trolley loaded with toilet paper, the two women scream wildly as they throw punches and pull each other’s hair.

“I just want one pack,” one screams, aggressively shaking and pointing her finger.

“No, not one pack,” another replies as she begs with the woman to leave her daughter alone.

Another, who attempts to calm the scuffle down, calmly says to one of the women, “think about what you’re doing”.

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Crowds nearby can be heard telling the manager to call the police, while another asks what the recently enforced limit for purchasing toilet paper had become.

During the week, the major supermarkets were forced to ration the sales of loo paper to keep the nation from running out as panic buying set in.

But these efforts have been unsuccessful at fanning the anxiety of shoppers, culminating in the fight.

Bankstown Police Area Command Duty Officer, Acting Inspector Andrew New, said that supplies of toilet paper are constantly being replenished and there’s no need to panic.

“Violence will not be tolerated and anyone involved in this behaviour may be committing an offence and find themselves in court,” he said.

Commenting on the video shared online, a woman claiming to be an employee at the supermarket condemned the fight.

“I know both customers as I work there,” Jenan Ghama Cheaib wrote.

“It’s ridiculous to think this is what we have come to.”

Supermarkets have struggled to control crowds all week as hysteria has swept the nation.

A Woolworths spokesman confirmed to news.com.au the fight was filmed in the Sydney suburb Chullora.

“We will not tolerate violence of any kind from our customers in our stores and we are working with Police who are investigating the matter,” the company said.

A makeshift sign spotted at a Woolworths in Bendigo declares a “zero tolerance” towards violence.

“Aggressive and abusive be behaviour will not be tolerated,” the paper reads. “Our team is here to help, not be hurt.”

Meanwhile, a news.com.au reader has spotted a man in another western Sydney suburb, Prestons, selling toilet paper on the side of the road.

The entrepreneur had a trailer loaded with the household item, selling one roll for $2, three rolls for $5 or a box for $70.

Canned foods, bleach and other household essentials have been snatched up but it’s the empty shelves of toilet rolls that have captured the imagination of social media.

“There’s quite a few things going on here and it is therefore a fairly complex issue,” clinical psychologist Dr Ros Knight told news.com.au.

“For whatever reason, and there could be a few contributing factors, people are getting quite anxious about COVID-19.”

Dr Knight, who is also president of the Australian Psychological Society, said the bizarre reaction is likely the result of concerned consumers trying to take ownership of a seemingly helpless endemic.

And she implored Australians to express their anxiety in a healthy way and instead focus on understanding the real dangers of the virus rather than the unnecessary hysteria.

“If you’re hearing about a virus that’s going to cause a pandemic and it’s killing people all over the world, if you’re hearing the hype rather than the facts then you go ‘what am I going to do to protect myself? I might end up stuck at home for a while so I’ll make sure I stock up,” she said.

“In reality, of course, it’s not necessary or at least definitely not at this point. It’s not an appropriate response to the level of threat we’re currently under.”



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