Those empty shelves

Updated: Mar 6, 2020


Yes it's true there is no toilet paper in the shops - this is how the toilet paper and tissues aisle in our local Coles looked like yesterday late morning. And today Sorbent - one of the main manufacturers is saying that they do have supplies unless everyone keeps doing this panic buying. Then there will be delays in restocking.


I simply don't understand it. There are so far just 44 confirmed cases in Australia in a population of some 25 million. I don't really know our actual population is. And it's not that serious either. One of the latest 'victims' is now fine although he has self-quarantined himself. Can't people see that if they buy up all the toilet paper then those that really need it - like hospitals - won't be able to get it?


Mind you I heard one possible explanation today. One of my fellow Italian students said she had gone to her local post office and there was a queue round the block of Chinese people sending big parcels of toilet paper to China. Also stupid I suspect. And why now? China's infections seem to be slowing down. Why didn't they send them before. Who gave them the idea?


I mostly blame the media, social media and the officials who are putting out warnings of pandemics. We are currently a long way from a pandemic it seems to me - I mean - 44 cases. There are a lot of people out there who are being frightened by all of this. I gather there is a mere 1% mortality rate, mostly amongst the elderly. Children apparently barely notice it. And the symptoms are all relatively mild on the whole. It sounds to me, in fact, not much worse than ordinary flu. In fact they say that most cases are self-treatable.


But since this blog is about food, what about food supplies? Well erratic is all I can say.

Here is the flour section of the same supermarket. Hardly any flour. I find this particularly intriguing. Why do people panic about flour? Are they all busy baking bread at home? Making cakes? The aisles of biscuits and bread and cakes looked Ok to me. And next door is the sugar section - which looked completely normal. We fell into conversation with a fellow shopper about all of this and she said that the porridge supplies had dried up. I assume she meant oats, although I don't know. Oh and the pasta and rice were in very short supply too. All the carbohydrates interestingly enough.


As for the fresh fruit and vegetables - completely normal! Plentiful supplies of everything. Ditto for cheese and dairy products and meat and fish.


Is this some sort of indicator of what people eat? But surely you would expect the meat to disappear - people have freezers after all. Or the milk - there was plenty of that.


Woolworths has apparently restricted the purchase of toilet rolls to 4 packets per person. Not four toilet rolls - four packets. Some of those packets are huge. Surely not enough restriction - and what does that say about how many people were buying beforehand?


I do not remember any of this when the SARS epidemic was on. And that was much worse, with a much higher mortality rate. Panic is a strange and dangerous thing. We all think we act individually and the it's just a small purchase, but put it all together and you get quite a different picture. Let's hope that people see reason.


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