Coronavirus: Australia running out of toilet paper

Public goes potty for loo roll as country gripped by pandemic fears

Harry Cockburn
Wednesday 04 March 2020 11:19 GMT
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Australia faces toilet roll shortage due to 'panic buying' during coronavirus scare

The threat of coronavirus has inspired a wave of panic buying in Australia, resulting in items including loo paper disappearing from shelves across the country.

Australians have begun to prepare for disaster at levels previously unseen, even at the height of the country’s recent extreme bushfires and other natural disasters.

The huge demand for loo paper has seen supermarket supplies dry up in minutes, and in Sydney one chain has implemented a four pack buying limit.

On the internet some people were selling packets of loo roll for over a hundred dollars, people have stolen loo rolls from public lavatories, and fights have reportedly erupted when lorries delivering paper arrived.

Demand for loo paper surged after authorities said the number of people known to be infected in Australia has risen to 42, with at least two cases where it is not known how the sufferers were exposed to the virus.

As well as huge demand for loo paper, supermarkets have been emptied of items including canned goods, hand sanitiser and bottled water.

The Australian government has described panic buying as unnecessary, and prime minister Scott Morrison has urged calm.

“It is important that people just go about their business and their normal processes in a calm manner,” he said at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.

Widespread panic buying has rarely been seen in Australia before, but according to an academic interviewed by Australia’s ABC, the current wave may be informed by the mass disruption caused by the bushfires and floods which affected swathes of the country in recent months.

Erin Smith of Edith Cowan University – who has studied the mental impacts of major disasters, told ABC: “With most other disasters, unless you’re right there, there’s a feeling of separation, of ‘I’m not there, I’m not directly impacted, so I’m OK’.

“In terms of inducing fear and a psychological toll, pandemics are always right up there with nuclear attacks, chemical, biological and radiological issues and terrorism.”

She added: “We’re probably in largely unprecedented territory in Australia, in that we’re just coming out of the tail end of one our worst and most devastating bushfire crises that we have experienced.”

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”.

The organisation has called on industry and governments to increase manufacturing of essential personal protective equipment by 40 per cent to meet rising global demand.

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