Coronavirus panic buying: people are stockpiling supplies - but do they really need to?

Some shops have reported customers emptying shelves and ‘panic buying’ as fears over coronavirus grow

It comes despite efforts from government officials to calm the public.

Do people need to stock up on supplies?

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Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, said: “there is absolutely no reason to be doing any panic buying of any sort, or going out and keeping large supplies of things.”

Many people are buying supplies in anticipation of having to self-isolate.

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Customers also seem to be increasingly concerned about preventing the spread of the disease, with hand-sanitiser products running low in some places.

Posts on social media show supermarket aisles emptied of items like toilet paper and hand soap.

But Vallance did concede that stockpiling might be needed in future, if measures like household quarantines are enforced.

“Clearly there will need to be measures in cases of household quarantine for making sure food is in the right place at the right time,” the chief adviser said, “but we imagine that could be a rolling case of household quarantine if that measure becomes necessary, and clearly things will need to be in place for care homes and so on if that decision is made.”

Last week, Boots stores limited bottles of hand sanitiser to two per person, and in Edinburgh, the pharmacy chain had sold out completely.

And they are not the only chain placing restrictions on some items. Tesco and Waitrose have begun limiting the number of “essentials” customers can buy. People can now only buy five items like toilet rolls, bags of pasta, and some tinned foods, at a time in Tesco.

Waitrose have capped the number of hand wipes and sanitisers customers can buy on their website.

Delivery service Ocado told customers that due to a growing number of “particularly large orders”, home delivery slots were selling out more quickly than usual.


Some people are bulk buying supplies in anticipation of having to self-isolate.

If medical professionals suspect a member of the public may have coronavirus, they could require them to isolate themselves from friends, family and colleagues.

For food supplies, the government advises isolated people to order food online, but says that it is also okay for friends and family to deliver food parcels as long as they don’t come into contact with the isolated person.

How to self-isolate

The government has issued advice for anyone planning to self-isolate on how to do it successfully:

- Stay in your home - do not go to work, school, or other public areas.

- Separate yourself from others in your home or accommodation.

- Do not have visitors - people coming to see you are at risk of infection.

- Use separate facilities - if sharing with housemates, these should be cleaned before use by others.

- Have food, medication, and other supplies delivered to you.

- Try to keep away from your pets - if unavoidable, wash your hands before and after contact with them.


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