Don’t succumb to the coronavirus panic-demic

Ian Bushnell 30 March 2020 29
Panic buying

Panic buying: empty toilet paper shelves at Woolworths in Weston. Photo: Region Media.

The day Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that Australia was planning for a pandemic, rumours were already swirling around Canberra that something was up.

Besides the conspiracy theories that the coronavirus didn’t originate in a Chinese market where wild animal meat was sold, but was a human-created super-SARS that had escaped from a lab, there was also chatter about plans for a lockdown in the ACT.

Asked whether any emergency exercises were in train, the Commonwealth Health Department promptly said no, not mentioning anything about Morrison’s upcoming statement.

In a small town like Canberra full of public servants with kids at local schools, it is no surprise that fragments of information find their way into the social media stream.

What is surprising is how sensible, well-off, educated Canberra joined the panic-demic sweeping the globe, and emptied supermarkets of toilet paper and other goods like rice.

And not just to survive the two weeks that any quarantine might bring, but buying in bulk to ride out months.

Perhaps the virus scare provoked some primal fear or vulnerability in people that manifested in the bulk-buying of a commodity vital to our most basic of bodily functions.

The images of empty shelves and snatches of interviews with people exiting Costco or Woolies with their trolley loads did not sit well with the national capital’s civil veneer.

There’s no need for panic buying, there is plenty of everything in Australia, health authorities reassured the mob, as supermarkets rationed sales and manufacturers said they would ramp up production.

This in the city where there is still no reported case of COVID-19, although with news that a man who travelled to Canberra by plane for a meeting at Defence on 28 February has tested positive for the virus it will now probably be sooner rather than later that we do have our first cases.

Rachel Stephen-Smith

Health chiefs and Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith get the message out about coronavirus. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

It may all seem to be a bit of March madness after our lost summer but the dark side is that many people who don’t have the money to bulk buy could not purchase their necessities.

There are also reports that people fearing the worst are stocking up on medications, threatening to cause shortages that could put others who are more vulnerable at risk.

We do face public health and economic crises, but as with all emergencies, and the summer is a case in point, the only way to get through them is to stick together and retain our sense of community and collective responsibility.

It is not a time for looking out for number one, but to look out for our neighbour.

We need to trust each other, and those who are tasked with leading the response to the challenges posed by the virus. Australia, and the ACT for that matter, is not a place where our health authorities will deliberately deceive or mislead us.

Even our much-maligned politicians need to have our goodwill, if nothing else, no matter how many times Scotty reminds us he’s ahead of the curve.

Yes, there will be issues – insufficient resources like face masks, pressures on our hospitals and the perils for our older citizens in aged care homes – but government will do what it must to manage this, knowing it will be judged.

The economic cost is mounting, with the virus tipped to put the nation’s health infrastructure back by a billion dollars plus the government stimulus package to keep business ticking over as supply chains break down, travel stalls and people stop buying.

Who knows how deep the pain will be but for now it’s best to keep a little perspective and do the simple, effective things that the health authorities have advised.

Don’t panic, take precautions and, for God’s sake, wash your hands.

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29 Responses to Don’t succumb to the coronavirus panic-demic
Capital Retro Capital Retro 5:05 pm 11 Mar 20

The association toilet paper has to COVID-19 is that when someone coughs in a crowded place 500 people have acute incontinence.

Tim Songp Tim Songp 3:04 pm 11 Mar 20

I’m still baffled to link Corona Virus to Toilet rolls

Acton Acton 8:36 am 11 Mar 20

Mass hysteria – also known as mass psychogenic illness, collective hysteria, group hysteria, or collective obsessional behavior.
Example: Australia (March 2020) – After cases of COVID-19 were reported in Australia, the population responded by going into a buying frenzy, resulting in country-wide shortages of essentials such as toilet paper. It is currently unclear whether the cause of this mass consumerism is simple mass hysteria, or the common and incurable condition known as ‘stupidity’.

Lorraine Vuksa Lorraine Vuksa 12:21 pm 10 Mar 20

I managed to get some in a Woolies home shop.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:45 pm 09 Mar 20

A lot of the toilet paper is being purchased by daigou and sent to China along with other popular Australian products like powdered baby milk and medications.

    JS9 JS9 12:39 pm 11 Mar 20

    Got any evidence to support that assertion?

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 2:45 pm 11 Mar 20

    My search engine is Google Chrome. You can use it too.

Shona Hutchinson Shona Hutchinson 10:29 pm 09 Mar 20

Caloundra QLD today! 🤯

Claire Claire 9:31 pm 09 Mar 20

I am amazed that so many people are so unbelievably stupid. They are causing the problem. What is going to happen when all this is over and they don’t have to buy toilet paper for a year? The poor people employed to make the stuff will be out of work. When I was in the Chemist a lady came in looking for hand sanitiser. She usually carries some in her handbag but had run out. There was none for her.

Sarah Dee Sarah Dee 7:48 pm 09 Mar 20

Also the flour shelf and the panadol have been wiped out

Darren Bryant Darren Bryant 7:44 pm 09 Mar 20

Unfortunately, everyone is looking out for number two’s

Kristy Jirgens Kristy Jirgens 6:59 pm 09 Mar 20

None at Kippax today. Go figure 🙄👌🤔

    Deborah Mesman Deborah Mesman 8:41 pm 11 Mar 20

    Kristy Jirgens extraordinary that it’s still an issue🤷‍♀️

Pip Cleary Pip Cleary 6:53 pm 09 Mar 20

I thought it was all a beat up, but was at Gungahlin Woolies this morning to do my weekly family shop and not a single roll to be had! We are a family of six!

    Martin Harper Martin Harper 8:47 pm 09 Mar 20

    Pip online delivery is where it’s at. Bypass the morons.

    Pip Cleary Pip Cleary 8:48 pm 09 Mar 20

    Martin Harper unfortunately they don’t deliver to where we are 😭😭

    Pip Cleary Pip Cleary 8:52 pm 09 Mar 20

    Martin Harper hahaha all good, a friend has some ‘sources’

    Martin Harper Martin Harper 8:53 pm 09 Mar 20

    Pip Cleary the new black market is here....

    Pip Cleary Pip Cleary 8:55 pm 09 Mar 20

    Martin Harper we’ll be right, we are going to go full survivalist mode out here at Gundaroo (cue banjos in distance) 😂😂😂

    Del Madge Del Madge 9:05 pm 09 Mar 20

    Bought some at Dickson Woolies also try the smaller more affluent IGA area stores. They had plenty today.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 10:44 am 10 Mar 20

    Martin Harper Yes, mine arrived. I order a box of 48 rolls maybe every 10 to 12 months, and it was my normal time to order paper. It was my regular order, which just happened to coincide with the rush for paper. It arrived two days later (after the shops had been emptied).

David Crick David Crick 3:41 pm 09 Mar 20

No one is looking out for number one they are more concerned about number two’s

Lily Rimanic Lily Rimanic 3:00 pm 09 Mar 20

I'd like to think not ... but praps there's a little Gollum lurking in all of us 😏

    Elizabeth Osborn Elizabeth Osborn 6:28 pm 09 Mar 20

    Lily Rimanic looking after number one means looking after number two!!🤷

Kerri Hallas Kerri Hallas 1:30 pm 09 Mar 20

People are idiots

Sylvana Ransley Sylvana Ransley 9:38 am 09 Mar 20

Clearly “looking out for our neighbour” doesn’t apply in Australia anymore. Whatever happened to mateship?

Aldo Milin Aldo Milin 8:53 am 09 Mar 20

Hysterical behaviour from irrational peeps has reared its ugly head. Why am i not surprised...

Lin Van Oevelen Lin Van Oevelen 7:57 am 09 Mar 20

It's so bizarre. I usually have enough staples for at least 2 weeks. I would have thought most people do, unless they are on a very low income, but they're not the ones panic buying.

SP Brogues SP Brogues 7:26 am 09 Mar 20

Seeing two women fighting over toilet paper in Woolies is a new low for our country.

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