More and more people in the United States are in panic buying mode amid growing concerns about the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
While there are currently no reported shortages of supplies, images on social media show empty shelves of goods as a result of people buying items in bulk.
Empty shelves at local Coles. Rice/Pasta/Flour/UHT Milk/Milk Powder/Noodles/Toilet Paper/Paper Towels/OTC Medicines all gone. Many shoppers are stunned at the scenes. #panicbuying #coronavirusaustralia pic.twitter.com/MEzFevrf29
— David Cao (@DavidCaoEV) March 2, 2020
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield urged Americans to stay calm, telling Congress that there is no need for healthy Americans to stock up on supplies.
— AHiTH filmfest 2020 (@AHITHFF) February 29, 2020
This past weekend, Costco, Walmart and other stores, reported a significant increase in customers, according to the Los Angeles Times.
#panicbuying at the local Coles supermarket. No toilet paper, tissues, flu medication, rice, flour, or of course, hand sanitiser.
No one had touched the fresh fruit and veg and bread, you’ll be fine. pic.twitter.com/s0z84EOdKD
— Dave Jones (@eevblog) March 3, 2020
“Antiseptic wipes and Clorox disinfecting wipes are flying out of here,” said Thad Kleszcz, general manager of Costco in Atwater Village.
Went shopping today at 2 supermarkets, they were completely
out of tinned foods, pasta, sauce, rice, tissues, loo paper,
Paracetamol, Ibuprofen, blueberries, avocados, instant
noodles … it’s absolute madness (really busy too) like
Christmas time #PanicBuying
— ~ (@LisaMic75251596) March 3, 2020
Kleszcz shared that there had been a sudden rise in customers last Friday and Saturday. This was right after news emerged that a man in Washington state became the first person in the U.S. to die from the coronavirus.
It’s started. Costco rationing 1 sack of rice per customer #panicbuying
— Piers (@4piers) March 1, 2020
Kleszcz added that people are stocking up mainly on water, paper goods, rice, pasta, jarred food and other non-perishables.
— The Truly Cheap Guy (@CheapGuyNYC) March 2, 2020
Meanwhile, Costco in Hawaii also saw a surge in shoppers lately.
Ok went to my local woolies to see the hype. PEOPLE ARE FUCKING NUTS. No more toilet paper, paper towels, few rice and pasta, baked beans. Some ppl shrugging it off, many #panicbuying. I have not seen my woollies that busy on a TUESDAY. #coronavirus pic.twitter.com/WTlPAcTB2a
— MJ (@fancee_pants) March 3, 2020
State health officials in Hawaii reportedly encouraged residents to stock up on all prescription medications and other basic household items “so you can care for yourself and your family at home if someone becomes ill.”
— Iain Brew (@IainBrewSydney) March 3, 2020
“Supplies of these items may be affected in the event of a pandemic,” the warning noted.
This was another Costco just south of San Francisco yesterday. This is the rice aisle. Gone. All toilet paper sold out. Spam gone. AA batteries and lots of other canned food items heavily picked over. #Costco #panicbuying #COVID19US pic.twitter.com/58AN70FdIV
— Jeff Christner (@SixbyFire) February 29, 2020
Asked why they have been stockpiling on supplies, some customers simply argued that it “doesn’t hurt to prepare” in case the situation gets out of hand.
— (@GimoNasiff) March 1, 2020
According to health experts, hoarding disposable masks could actually do more harm than good as this limits the availability of the items to doctors and nurses.
Department of Health and Human Services secretary Alex Azar pointed out that the masks are simply “unnecessary” unless you’re a health professional or someone already infected, trying to protect others.
It has been repeatedly stressed by health experts that the most effective way to protect yourself against coronavirus and other viral infections, such as the cold and flu, is simply by washing your hands regularly with soap and warm water.
Proper handwashing involves scrubbing your palms with soap and then interlacing and clasping the fingers. After that, you must scrub around the thumbs and the backs of your hands, the World Health Organization recommends.
On Tuesday, WHO estimated the global mortality rate of COVID-19 to be at 3.4%, which is higher than previous estimates of about 2%, CNBC reports.
However, Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s health emergencies program, was quick to note that they at least have a “glimmer, a chink of light” that the virus could be contained as the transmission of coronavirus is not the same as the flu.
“Here we have a disease for which we have no vaccine, no treatment, we don’t fully understand transmission, we don’t fully understand case mortality, but what we have been genuinely heartened by is that unlike influenza, where countries have fought back, where they’ve put in place strong measures, we’ve remarkably seen that the virus is suppressed,” Ryan added.