Toilet paper frenzy goes global amid coronavirus spread
The killer disease has so far claimed 3,200 lives and infected nearly 95,000 people worldwide.
As the deadly coronavirus continues to spread at an alarming rate across the world, desperate people are stockpiling toilet papers, soaps and sanitizers in preparation for a possible pandemic. The killer disease has so far claimed 3,200 lives and infected nearly 95,000 people worldwide.
In Australia, people were seen buying toilet paper en masse despite authorities stressing that there is no shortage. In the country’s largest city Sydney, supermarket shelves have been cleared in minutes, forcing one chain to enforce a four-pack buying limit.
Official guidance advised people to practice good hygiene and wash their hands. It was also suggested that people could prepare two weeks worth of food and water, as well as other household goods, if they felt it necessary.
The police was even called to a dispute on Wednesday, with reports saying a knife was pulled out in an argument over toilet roll between panic buying shoppers.
The hysteria has led to #toiletpaper, #toiletpapergate and #toiletpapercrisis trending on Twitter. Australian shops are being cleared of a number of everyday household goods including tinned food, long-life milk, nappies and hand sanitisers. Rolls are being flogged for hundreds of dollars online, while listeners are calling into radio stations to win packs of 3-ply loo roll.
In Sydney’s Woolworths supermarket, dramatic footage showed customers reaching over each other, carrying two 12-packs at a time before racing back for more. Due to the commotion, Woolworths was forced to introduce a four-packet limit per customer.
Australia’s supermarket giant Coles also faced a similar situation. Amid the coronavirus hysteria, there were also reports of people stealing from public loos. The country’s tally of coronavirus infections has climbed to 53. It has had two deaths. These numbers are significantly lower than that of other nations.
The world’s gone mad! 3 supermarkets - no toilet roll! Last I heard #coronavirus causes a flu-like illness not wild, explosive diarrhoea! ????Scored possibly the last pack in the whole of Brisbane! Might put it on eBay! ???? #panicbuying #coronavirusaustralia #toiletpaper pic.twitter.com/rDUQ4Avv1B— Anne Stubbs (@annestubbs) March 3, 2020
@woolworths Shame on you Woolworths South Yarra I ordered my groceries online this morning came to pick them up 2hrs later & told the toilet rolls I paid for were out of stock! 7pallets came in today & sold out in 3hrs! Limit the amount per customer!! We have no #toiletpaper pic.twitter.com/ITk1v6b8Ln— Paris Dean (@ParisDean20) March 3, 2020
The toilet paper frenzy is not limited to Australia as similar scenes have been witnessed in Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan. There are reports of toilet paper buy-ups in the US and UK as well.
In February, armed robbers in Hong Kong stole hundreds of toilet rolls. The robbers had apparently threatened a delivery worker who had unloaded rolls of toilet paper outside Wellcome Supermarket. Six hunderd toilet paper rolls, valued at around HKD1,695 ($218; £167), had been stolen.
Despite government assurances that supplies remain unaffected by the virus outbreak, residents have been stocking up on toilet paper. Other household products have also seen panic-buying including rice, pasta and cleaning items.
Face masks and hand sanitizers are almost impossible to get as people try to protect themselves from the virus.
In Singapore too, there has been some panic-buying of toilet rolls, hand sanitisers and face masks. The country reported 112 cases, of which 79 people have fully recovered, reported the Straits Times.
In the UK, which saw its biggest day-on-day increase in coronavirus cases on Wednesday, bringing the total number to 87, there were reports of supermarkets across the country running out of hand sanitizers, soap and toilet papers.
Empty shelves were seen at a supermarket in Bath. The panic buying appeared to have started in Somerset. Louise, a tourist from Wales, shared on Twitter: "On a short break in Bath and I popped into Sainsbury's to be confronted with this. "I thought it was all media talk until I seen it for myself! WTF!! #toiletpapercrisis."
On a short break in Bath and I popped into Sainsburys to be confronted with this. I thought it was all media talk until I seen it for myself! WTF!! ???????????????? #toiletpapercrisis pic.twitter.com/J6LI0GP7MH— Louise (@louangel7219) March 4, 2020
The World Health Organisation has said rising demand for medical supplies including gloves and masks, resulting in panic buying, hoarding and misuse, "is putting lives at risk from the new coronavirus and other infectious diseases".
In the UK, so far hand sanitizer has been one of the products to start selling out rapidly.
In the US, which has so far reported at least 150 reported patients with Covid-19 in 16 states, shoppers ran out to buy food, water and other staples so they could avoid exposing themselves and their families. The current coronavirus death toll in the country stands at 11.
Others, alarmed by the rising death count and number of confirmed cases in the US, went on impulsive buying binges, stripping store shelves of toilet paper and cleaning supplies. Reports say that hand sanitizer was nearly impossible to find in some places.