Coronavirus panic buying as stockpilers clear shop shelves

6 March 2020, 12:36

Pictures of empty supermarket shelves have flooded social media
Pictures of empty supermarket shelves have flooded social media. Picture: Global
Rachael Kennedy

By Rachael Kennedy

Shoppers all over the country have been reporting empty shelves in their local supermarkets as panic buyers prepare for the possible impact of coronavirus.

Videos and photos posted to social media show shelves cleared of products, including hand sanitisers, pasta and toilet rolls as the coronavirus outbreak worsens.

"Interesting shopping experience yesterday at Sainsbury's Streatham Common in London around 5.30pm," shopper Anne-Gaelle Colom wrote on Twitter.

She added: "Was trying to do my normal weekly pasta, rice, loo roll, canned veg, longlife milk etc!"

The tweet was shared alongside several pictures showing barren aisles.

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Another customer in southwest London said he had "literally never seen this before" when he went to his local Tesco to be greeted by the same sight.

He said: "This isn't good. This group panic is not going to help anyone."

In Belfast, freelance journalist Amanda Ferguson said hand sanitiser was sold out in her local Boots, Poundland and chemists, and only "limited soap" was left in her Asda branch.

"Were ye not washing yer hawns before, or what?" she asked.

A similar sight experience was reported b Alanah Georgia in Cheshire, who said: "Can't cope" after going to Tesco to find the pasta shelves had been cleared.

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock has advised against people panic buying at their local supermarkets, and said he is confident that food supplies will not run low.

But this has not stopped one in ten Britons stockpiling in preparation for a possible COVID-19 epidemic, according to research from retail analyst company Retail Economics.

On Mumsnet, a number of users admitted to panic buying goods in case of needing to self isolate.

One person said they had been "buying a few extra bits for weeks", which included "dried milk, big bags of pasta and rice, lots of tinned stuff, extra frozen bits".

They added: "Even got 90 loo rolls off Groupon delivered yesterday!! Everyone thinks I'm mad but at the end of the day it's all stuff we use anyhow so it won't go to waste."

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Another wrote: "I'm a single parent so stocked up with a few things today in case we need to self isolate.

"Tinned soup/pasta/beans/tinned fruit, pasta, dried noodles and rice, part baked rolls/'long life wraps, long life milk, pasta sauces, biscuits (of course!) and a few other bits and pieces.

"I'll get some freezer stuff another day.

"I'm not a worrier but I just want to have a small stockpile in a self isolate situation. If it comes to nothing then there's nothing I wouldn't use anyway so nothing will go to waste."

On Twitter, Philip Keeler said he had stockpiled six weeks worth of shopping after "getting more and more concerned about coronavirus in the UK."

He added: "I don't have the virus by the way, just worried if what happens in Italy occurs here."

Health officials confirmed on Thursday that the number of cases of COVID-19 in the UK had risen to 115, with one confirmed death.

It came just hours after the UK's chief medical officer Chris Whitty said the response to the flu-like illness had moved into the second "delay" phase - past the initial containment phase.