HONG KONG: Everywhere from Japan to France to the United States, shelves are stripped bare of toilet rolls, hand sanitizers and surgical masks as panic buying criss-crosses the globe with the coronavirus, defying repeated calls for calm and upsetting supply chains.
Posted obsessively on social media, shop scrambles and empty shelves add panic and confusion to the battle against an epidemic that has killed thousands of people, put millions under quarantine and ravaged global markets.
Australia’s largest retailer this week started rationing toilet paper sales after police had to be called to a Sydney store when a knife was drawn over the community.
Japan’s prime minister took to Twitter on Saturday to ease the fears of a national shortage, while US social media photos show toilet paper shelves lying bare. Psychologists say the responsibility is on a combination of herd mentality and over-exposure to virus coverage.
“We might be less irrational if we weren’t being reminded so much of the potential dangers by the news,” London-based consumer psychologist Kate Nightingale told sources.
“We either avoid the topic or we go completely nuts and stock up on anything we might just need.”
Panic buying non-medical products such as toilet paper “gives people this sense of control that ‘I will have what I need when I want’,” Andy Yap, a psychologist and Charlene Chen, who specializes in marketing and business in Singapore, told a media source in an email message.