The Covid-19 pandemic has caused all kinds of irrational behaviour, from aggressively trying to sell lies about it not being that bad, to spreading laughable conspiracy theories, to defying self isolation when exposed, but the most visible one is panic buying.
Panic-buying massive quantities of goods is not the same as being prepared for a potential 2 week isolation. Preparation is sensible, but it doesn’t require as much “stuff” as people think it does. The shortage caused by overbuying particular products causes harm to others.
Normal preparation for a potential 2 week isolation should look like a slightly bigger shop, not like you’re going into a nuclear bunker with dissentry.
Problematic emptying of shelves includes toilet rolls and painkillers. Other people need these things, they are not a choice, and are certainly not something that an average person will need in immense quantities. The stockpiling of these 2 products affects people who are regularly in pain, and those with small controlled budgets who cannot stockpile at all and need to buy their shopping at specific times, when their pensions or benefits come in. These people are also those who are more at risk if they have to go out again to get the things that were hoarded by the selfish.
Last night Morrisons in Belper was relatively well stocked, today we were told that it has been emptied of tissues, soap, pasta, sanitiser, toilet rolls, painkillers and soup.
To keep all of our people safe, stocked, fed and cared for, people are going to have to think about more than just themselves. Sure, you are entitled to your share, but your share is not the absolute maximum which you can manage to cram in your trolley.
There is a higher risk of dying from Covid-19 than there is of getting diarrhoea from it, so what’s the loo roll for? The average person staying home all day uses 1 toilet roll per week. So if there are 4 people in your house, you need one pack of 9 rolls. A spare packet would also be sensible. Anything more is hysteria and selfishness.
There is already a shortage of painkillers in Britain, preceding Covid-19, so if you don’t need them all the time, please don’t buy them every time you go in a shop. There are people living with chronic pain who really do need them and cannot get them. If you are well off, buy the branded ones and leave the cheap ones for those who are not well off.
There have also been runs on some mad things. One day Belper sold out of plain flour. One assumes that this is for emergency bread making, except that you don’t use plain flour to make bread. The same day 2 supermarkets were emptied of shower gel, as though extra showering has been recommended (it hasn’t).
And all of the chemists are permanently sold out of alcohol hand gel and face masks.
Face masks of the kind stocked in chemists will not combat Covid-19. There is only one kind of face mask which might, and it isn’t these. A mask is only of help to stop you touching your own face and transferring what you might have touched to the only 2 entry points where you can get infected – nose and mouth. So you can use a scarf to stop yourself doing this. Just put it in the wash each day. You can also make your own mask.
Overbuying hand gel won’t help you if you stop other people from having it. By limiting the supply for others, you ensure that they cannot control their exposure, so the virus spreads further and increases your chances of getting it. Make sure everyone has access to some, leaving time for shops to restock before buying more, and then more people are protected and you are protected better by their better level of protection. This is a collective, not individual effort. We ALL need to be protected to protect each other, and to protect the vulnerable. Those in the community with underlying health issues – diabetes, asthma, respiratory illness, compromised immune system, inflammation issues suffered by almost all older people, heart conditions, lung disease – are who we are protecting, because they are the ones who could actually die. To protect them, everyone needs access to protections and preparations.
Do remember that many things, like toilet roll, and food, can be ordered online with instructions to knock and leave them outside your door without contact between people. Pain killers cannot be ordered online affordably or easily. Online prices for hand sanitiser have been artificially inflated due to demand exceeding supply.
Shops are currently restricting the purchase of certain products, but not by enough. Hysterical hoarders can still buy 4 or 5 of each product. Four 9-packs of loo roll? Really? 5 packs of sanitiser? Well at least we’ll be able to spot who is doing it, when the rest of us have no protection.
Yesterday’s announcement of the government’s plans, which sees a measured and calculated attempt to not overwhelm the NHS or risk the negative economic impact of more severe measures, leaves the vulnerable more at risk, because the virus will be allowed to make its way through the population at a delayed rate, allowing for better NHS care, but ensuring that the vulnerable are more likely to be exposed. In the Delay stage of addressing Covid-19, we need to work together to make sure that we are protecting those most at risk and most in need.
If you’ve hoarded, perhaps you should check on your vulnerable neighbours, and share your hoard with those who have been inconvenienced and endangered by the unnecessarily empty shelves.