coronavirus panic shopping

Toronto mayor asks residents to please stop panic shopping

Purchasing every bottle of soap, jar of peanut butter, can of beans and roll of toilet paper you can find may somehow seem like a good idea when everyone else is doing it, but government officials say "panic shopping" — as the COVID-19 pandemic-inspired phenomenon has come to be called — is both unnecessary and harmful.

Customers at grocery stores and pharmacies all over the country have been reporting massive lineups at registers in recent days, along with bare shelves and frenzied consumer behaviour.

In some cases, people have been lining up just to get inside supermarkets — and once they do get in, they're buying up everything they can get their hands on.

This behaviour has been escalating alongside the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak, which has so far infected 142 people in Ontario and 142,539 people worldwide and is prompting the temporary closure of myriad businesses, event spaces and public facilities.

As the case tally rises, more and more people are starting to prepare for a period of self-isolation in the event that they contract the coronavirus — and their frenzied stockpiling is creating shortages of goods that vulnerable citizens actually need right now.

"I want to encourage residents of Toronto to avoid panic buying and stocking," wrote Toronto Mayor John Tory in a public statement distributed across his social media channels on Sunday. 

"Purchase items in preparation for a two week self-isolation period if necessary but please remember that panic buying means that those who are vulnerable won’t have access to the products that they need."

Ontario's provincial government similarly asked residents to avoid panic shopping in a media release on Saturday.

"Ontarians can be confident that our food supply is robust and that our distribution system will continue to operate and remain responsive to the needs of Ontarians," reads a joint statement from Health Minister Christine Elliott and Agriculture Minister Ernie Hardemen.

"Rest assured, we have plenty of food that will continue to reach grocery stores on a regular basis," the statement continues. "Our food supply chain is one of the strongest in the world and our government remains committed to ensuring Ontarians can access healthy and nutritious Ontario-produced foods."

"Please practice normal grocery buying habits and rest assured that our grocery production and supply chain will continue to provide Ontarians with the food we enjoy each and every day."

Public health officials do advise that Canadians have emergency preparedness kits on hand in the event that they or family members need to be isolated for 14 days, but also say that people need to stock up on supplies gradually.

"At this time, it makes sense to fill your cupboards with non-perishable food items, so that you do not need to go shopping if you become sick," reads the Public Health Agency of Canada's website.

"It is easier on the supply chain if people gradually build up their household stores instead of making large-scale purchases all at once. To do this, you can add a few extra items to your grocery cart every time you shop."

The federal government recommends stocking up on items such as dried pasta and sauce, canned goods, pet food, toilet paper, diapers and facial tissue.

"The reason for stocking up on these items is not necessarily because you will need to self-isolate," reads the website. "Having these supplies on hand will ensure you do not need to leave your home at the peak of the outbreak or if you become ill."

Lead photo by

Terry Alexander

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