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Bunnings in Sydney: Just how vital is warehouse during Covid lockdown?


Shoppers stream through the doors of Sydney’s busiest Bunnings store to pick up paint tins, potting mix and new plants on a weekday morning in Sydney – an act that was once an almost celebrated part of Aussie life. 

However, seven weeks into lockdown, a trip to superstore is now highly controversial in a divided and tired Australia. 

The simple act of popping up to the warehouse for bits and pieces is now at the centre of national debate as the country plunges into a bitter new chapter of its fight against Covid-19.

Bunnings has been deemed essential by the NSW Government throughout Greater Sydney’s seven week lockdown, even as the store repeatedly pops up on exposure sites.

Meanwhile, Delta variant case numbers continue to climb – hitting 390 on Friday – and show no signs of falling.  

Some claim that letting Bunnings stay open has become a symbol of how Gladys Berejiklian’s government has so recklessly endangered the country with a weak, belated lockdown – a ‘mockdown’.

Meanwhile, Sydney’s five million residents prove with their repeated business that they are clinging to one of the few freedoms they have left – the right to scour the store’s aisles for Ryobi drills and spak filler – as Daily Mail Australia observed on a trip to one prominent superstore at 10am on Thursday. 

A country divided over gardening supplies: A Sydney shopper clicks and collects a new veggie planter on Thursday - but would have been free to roam the aisles of Bunnings if he wished

A country divided over gardening supplies: A Sydney shopper clicks and collects a new veggie planter on Thursday – but would have been free to roam the aisles of Bunnings if he wished

Essential cleaning supplies: A young woman in activewear ducked into Bunnings to collect a new broom and a large set of Vileda microfibre cloths on Thursday morning. In Melbourne, she would have had to order it online

Essential cleaning supplies: A young woman in activewear ducked into Bunnings to collect a new broom and a large set of Vileda microfibre cloths on Thursday morning. In Melbourne, she would have had to order it online

Is this Bunnings purchase proof Sydney is in a 'mockdown' ... or an entirely reasonable purchase of premium potting mix? Australia is riven by a bitter debate over whether the country's biggest city keeping the major hardware store open

Is this Bunnings purchase proof Sydney is in a ‘mockdown’ … or an entirely reasonable purchase of premium potting mix? Australia is riven by a bitter debate over whether the country’s biggest city keeping the major hardware store open

Keeping the fires burning: A couple pick up a half-dozen of BBQ coals and a roll of carpet from the warehouse superstore on Thursday

Keeping the fires burning: A couple pick up a half-dozen of BBQ coals and a roll of carpet from the warehouse superstore on Thursday 

Many members of the ‘close Bunnings’ brigade appear to be anxious residents of other states, who fret the city’s Delta outbreak will engulf the nation, having recently jumped the border to Victoria and now the ACT, which on Thursday announced a snap three-day lockdown after three cases were discovered.  

The demands appear to stem in part from Melbourne’s harsh, but ultimately successful, hard lockdown of 2020.  

Then – and now, in the city’s current lockdown – warehouses were only open for tradies, with the wider population required to click ‘n’ collect. 

‘Why not click & collect? Like Melbourne does during lockdown? It’s just common sense’, one social media user railed. 

 There were 20 exposure events at Bunnings stores in the 14 days to August 6.

Meanwhile, critics point to hard numbers that show Covid keeps popping up at Bunnings stores. 

According to a startling tally, compiled by a Twitter user, there were 20 exposure events at Bunnings stores in the 14 days to August 6. 

That included six exposures at Bunnings Greenacre alone – a venue right in the centre of hard-hit south-west Sydney.  

Even some Bunnings staff admit their customers don’t need to be there.  

‘Ninety per cent of people don’t need to be here,’ one worker told Daily Mail Australia. 

‘They need groceries and petrol only’. 

A customer grabs some goods out of her trolley after a brief shop at the popular warehouse

A customer grabs some goods out of her trolley after a brief shop at the popular warehouse 

Ducking in for some basics: This customer took home a shelf on Thursday

A dutifully masked woman carries her new paint roller and handbag to her car

Ducking in for some basics: Dutifully masked customers pick up a shelf (left) and a paint roller (on right) respectively  

A couple heap their new belongings into the back of their car - including a sturdy-looking new broom

A couple heap their new belongings into the back of their car – including a sturdy-looking new broom

‘Why aren’t some of these businesses shut?’ Sky News political editor Andrew Clennell thundered at Ms Berejiklian’s press conference last Wednesday. 

‘Can’t you go harder with this lockdown because what you are doing at the moment hasn’t reduced the numbers? Why is Bunnings open?’ 

Ms Berejiklian dismissed the barrage of questions. 

But there is another side to the debate – not least that millions of Sydney residents are mostly trapped inside with little to do, something that isn’t going to change any time soon.

Ninety per cent of people don’t need to be here 

An impassioned Facebook post urging people not to judge Bunnings shoppers has caught fire online in recent days.

The post highlights how Bunnings sells goods which are critical to the essential work of helping people with their mental health. 

The viral post said: ‘Do you ever think maybe that guy buying a litre of paint knows he must keep busy because idle hands in the past has caused him to relapse and pick up that case of beer?

‘So he’s using this time to do home improvements, something that keeps his mind busy while feeling a sense of accomplishment, trying to avoid painful triggers while possibly alone?’

It continues: ‘Maybe that lady buying bags of soil and seeds, has struggled with depression and suicide?’

‘How do you know that planting and watching something beautiful grow during this time of darkness, isn’t essential to her, helping her to hold on to what little hope she might still have.’

The popular chain letter goes to argue that ‘we are all on edge but please stop being so judgmental of others’ when Bunnings provides such necessary outlets to so many Sydney residents. 

Gardening supplies were popular among shoppers likely keen to spend some time getting their hands dirty in the yard - given there are few other legal activities available to Sydneysiders

Gardening supplies were popular among shoppers likely keen to spend some time getting their hands dirty in the yard – given there are few other legal activities available to Sydneysiders 

Gardening supplies were popular for shoppers (left and right) at Sydney's sprawling, two-storey outlet in Alexandria - perhaps because there's not much else to do at home

Gardening supplies were popular for shoppers (left and right) at Sydney's sprawling, two-storey outlet in Alexandria - perhaps because there's not much else to do at home

Gardening supplies were popular for shoppers (left and right) at Sydney’s sprawling, two-storey outlet in Alexandria – perhaps because there’s not much else to do at home

A half-dozen bags of compost sit loaded up, ready for customers to carry them home, at the store in the city's inner east

A half-dozen bags of compost sit loaded up, ready for customers to carry them home, at the store in the city’s inner east

This viral post has swept social media arguing that Bunnings supplies essential goods for peoples' mental health

This viral post has swept social media arguing that Bunnings supplies essential goods for peoples’ mental health

After questions about Bunnings, NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant (left) last week  said large stores weren't driving Covid transmission in Sydney

At the same press conference last week the Premier dismissed the topic, saying 'next question'

After questions about Bunnings, NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant (left) said large stores weren’t driving transmission. Ms Berejiklian (right) ignored follow up questions about why Bunnings stores were open

The other argument for Bunnings to stay open comes from the medical establishment. 

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant addressed the Bunnings question last week at a fiery press conference. 

Dr Chant made clear that large stores, such as supermarkets and no doubt Bunnings, weren’t her major concern.  

‘I’ve got to say in terms of large supermarkets or large spaces (they) are not actually driving transmission,’ she said.

The state has seen just a handful of transmission events in big stores such as supermarkets, she said.  

‘But I can’t stress enough that every time you are out and about, please do your part by minimising the number of stores you enter,’ she added. 

Dr Chant has recently pointed to Covid transmission in essential workplaces and among households as the bigger issue. 

Households, it seems, that are still being well maintained.  

BUNNINGS STORES: COVID RESTRICTIONS STATE BY STATE ACROSS AUSTRALIA AS LOCKDOWNS ROLL ON 

ACT:  

‘Our stores in the ACT remain open to ensure customers and tradespeople have access to the products they need to complete emergency repairs and maintenance around homes or to supply essential infrastructure and services, in line with government guidance. 

NSW 

‘Our stores located in the local government areas of Greater Sydney, the Central Coast, Blue Mountains, Wollongong, Shellharbour, Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Port Stephens, Cessnock, Dungog, Singleton, Muswellbrook, Armidale, Tamworth, Byron, Lismore, Ballina and Dubbo regions are classified as critical and remain open to ensure customers and tradespeople have access to the products they need to complete emergency repairs and maintenance around homes or to supply essential infrastructure and services, in line with government guidance.’

VICTORIA:  

‘Following the latest Victorian Government announcement, our stores in regional Victoria are open for retail and trade customers from Tuesday 10 August.

‘Metro Melbourne stores remain open for trade customers only. During this time our Metro Melbourne retail customers can still purchase the items they need online, using Bunnings’ Click & Deliver or contactless Drive & Collect service, where products can be ordered online and collected from Bunnings’ car parks, without customers needing to get out of their car.’ 

QUEENSLAND:  

‘Our Cairns Central and Smithfield stores are classified as essential and remain open to ensure customers and tradespeople have access to the products they need to complete emergency repairs and maintenance around homes or to supply essential infrastructure and services, in line with government guidance. Face masks

In line with the latest Government and public health advice, we require all customers and team members to wear a face mask when visiting our stores and sites located in the following local government areas: Noosa, Sunshine Coast, Ipswich, Logan, Redlands, Morton, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Scenic Rim, Lockyer Valley, Somerset and Cairns, unless medically exempt.’ 

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

‘In line with government guidance, our stores in South Australia remain open to ensure customers and tradespeople have access to the products they need to complete emergency repairs and maintenance around homes or to supply essential infrastructure and services.

‘We encourage customers to please shop online wherever possible using Bunnings’ Click & Deliver or contactless Drive & Collect service, where products can be ordered online and collected from Bunnings’ car parks, without needing to get out of the car.’ 

NORTHERN TERRITORY: 

‘In line with the latest Government and public health advice, masks are no longer mandatory for our team and customers, although they are more than welcome to wear one if they wish.’ 

WESTERN AUSTRALIA: 

‘In line with the latest Government and public health advice, masks are no longer mandatory for our team and customers.’

SOURCE: Bunnings 





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Written by Bourbiza Mohamed

A technology enthusiast and a passionate writer in the field of information technology, cyber security, and blockchain

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