Are bus loads full of people coming to the Mudgee region to strip our supermarket shelves of stock? It seems unlikely.
The Australian Government today announced a raft of new restrictions to contain the spread of the virus and as uncertainty grows about the threat of COVID-19, so to do rumours and speculation.
The Mudgee Guardian has fielded requests from readers asking what can be done about the so-called 'bus people' problem. Multiple local community groups are also a hive of speculation about the supposed groups.
We made the call to several local supermarkets and see what they had to say.
A spokesperson for Woolworths said there has been no evidence to suggest that buses are coming west to shop at the region's stores.
"We haven't heard of any reports or evidence to suggest that," the spokesperson said when asked about people travelling in buses.
"We've seen an extraordinary level of demand for groceries across the country in recent weeks,"
"We've made some further changes to the maximum number of products customers can buy, in addition to other limits already in place.
"There is now a per customer, per shop limit of two items from any single category on most packaged products regardless of brand or variety. There are exceptions to this, with no limits currently on fruit and vegetables, fresh milk and baby food.
We are not seeing busloads of people coming out in front of the store form a particular place.- Imran Ahmedi, co owner of Gulgong Supa IGA
"We ask customers to please respect the limits and only buy what they need to help as many Australians as possible access the products they need.
"Our teams continue to work tirelessly under difficult circumstances, so we ask that they are treated with the courtesy and respect they deserve."
An employee at Coles Mudgee who asked to remain anonymous said they had worked all day for the last five days and saw nothing to suggest travellers were arriving en masse to shop.
"I can honestly say that I've not noticed big swarms - big bus loads of people coming through," they said.
"I think, to be fair, if you look up at the caravan park or the showground, there's probably twenty plus caravans up at the showground. So we actually have an influx of visitors in town anyway."
Imran Ahmedi, co owner of the Supa IGA in Gulgong said that while there has undoubtedly been a higher-than-normal influx of shoppers, he's seen no evidence of bus loads of people travelling to the region to clear out local supermarkets.
"From our perspective, there definitely is an influx of people and they are coming from somewhere," he said.
"We've put out statements on Facebook as well advising the Gulgong community as to the circumstances and where we're at. A lot of the replies - we're still getting now on Facebook - are of this very thing. That we need to stop out-of-community purchasing.
"We are not seeing busloads of people coming out in front of the store form a particular place.
"The foot traffic is as high as it's ever been. Yes they are coming from somewhere, but from our perspective as retailers, what residents need to understand is it's very hard to police that.
At the registers, we don't know if that's a local or is this someone from out of town. We couldn't tell you. We do have purchase limits in place which are there to try and deter panic purchasing... allowing supply for everyone as best we can.
"We've been requested to ask people for ID as they're coming through the door or proof of address while servicing that service area. And look, logistically that's a very hard thing to police and we run the risk of customers getting aggressive and putting our staff in danger and just from a socially acceptable practice, I just don't feel that we're there yet."
The image above was taken in Gulgong as it was parked across the road from the local IGA on Wednesday. When the Mudgee Guardian contacted the company listed on the bus we learned that it had come from Sydney's southwest.
It was transporting a Probus club from the Ingleburn area. The group of elderly tourists has spent the week in the Mudgee region since Monday, visiting local attractions, hotels and restaurants and of course, doing some shopping too.
This is the same bus that was seen parked near St Matthews Catholic School and was claimed by some to be full of people aiming to buy up as much local stock as they could.
There is no evidence to suggest they are related in any way to the rumoured supermarket raids.Owner and Managing Director of the coach company, Keith Yates said if anything, the COVID-19 scare has driven down numbers of elderly patrons who usually use his service.
"We've had a drop in numbers. Because a lot of elderly seniors were - their families are concerned that they might catch some sort of bug from somebody or whatever. The senior side of the market, they don't want to mix with a lot of different people as such," he said.
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