Covid-19 – an anecdote on panic-buying from the frontlines

S Thayaparan

Modified 28 Mar 2020, 1:33 am

Hysteria is impossible without an audience. Panicking by yourself is the same as laughing alone in an empty room. You feel really silly.”

― Chuck Palahniuk, 'Invisible Monsters'

COMMENT | A young nurse who works at the frontline out of the blue emailed me about the panic-buying she has witnessed and how it has affected her family and her. In a long email, she told me how she was working multiple shifts and she was self-quarantining because she did not want to endanger her family.

Her oldest son was doing the shopping since her husband passed away some years ago. He has been doing this since he was a teenager. Life was tough but enjoyable before she “went to war” with this virus. However, her son who (also) works in the essential services industry has been finding it difficult to get groceries and other essential items because of all the panic-buying.

Online shopping for fruits and vegetables are beyond their means. Not only is she looking after her family, but she also has to think of some members of the extended family from her husband's side as well. Her son either gets up early to go shopping or tries to do it during his lunch break - which is difficult – but most times when he heads to the supermarkets or grocery stores, panic-buying has left the store empty.

This is more acute when the government says it is going to make “important” statements and there are a couple of days between the said important statements. So people rush to the stores and buy up essential items especially fruit and vegetables.

“My son went early to Tesco one morning after he did his prayers in the house. He was one of the first and waited in line. When he passed through the checking system – temperature check – he went straight to the vegetable section only see this man buy up the last 10 packets of a particular vegetable. Not only that, but there were also very few packets of vegetables or loose vegetables left. And my son was one of the first in line.”

What am I supposed to do, she wrote. She tells members of her family to only buy for a couple of days. The government has assured people that there are enough supplies. Think of other people and what they are going through, she continues. Why be selfish? She said that she works hard...

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