First the coronavirus outbreak, now the panic buying, Latest World News - The New Paper

First the coronavirus outbreak, now the panic buying

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Police called as coronavirus fears lead to panic buying in Australia

SYDNEY/HONGKONG: A fight over toilet rolls ended with a man being tasered, Australian police said yesterday, as coronavirus concerns drove panic buying.

Police were called to a store in the New South Wales town of Tamworth, about four hours drive north of Sydney, after the man allegedly lashed out and attacked another customer and a worker.

Over 50 people have been confirmed to have the virus in Australia. Two major supermarket chains have limited purchases on toilet paper to help quell the stockpiling.

Darwin's daily paper, the NT News, made light of the loo roll hysteria, printing several blank pages for their readers to use if worst comes to the worst.

"We've printed an eight-page special lift-out inside, complete with handy cut lines, for you to use in an emergency," the paper's front page read.

But it is no laughing matter as the panic-buying epidemic is spreading.

Shelves are being stripped bare of toilet rolls, hand sanitiser and surgical masks everywhere from Japan to France to the US.

Empty shop shelves are adding panic and confusion to the fight against an epidemic that has killed thousands, placed millions under quarantine and battered global markets.

On Saturday, Japan's prime minister took to Twitter to calm fears of a national shortage, while social media photos from the US show toilet paper shelves bare.

Psychologists say a mix of herd mentality and over-exposure to coverage of the virus is to blame. "We might be less irrational if we weren't being reminded so much of the potential dangers by the news," said London-based consumer psychologist Kate Nightingale.

"We either avoid the topic or we go completely nuts and stock up on anything we might just need."


Panic buying of non-medical items like toilet paper "gives people this sense of control that 'I will have what I need when I want'," said psychologist Andy Yap and Ms Charlene Chen, who specialises in marketing and business in Singapore.

In London, face masks are now going for more than 100 times their normal retail price.

Meanwhile, French authorities said they would requisition all face mask stocks and production.

In Indonesia, police seized more than half a million face masks from a Jakarta-area warehouse after the country's first confirmed cases of coronavirus sparked panic buying and sent prices for prevention products skyrocketing.

The demand is being "driven by panic buying, stockpiling and speculation," World Health Organisation spokesman Fadela Chaib said.

This is despite the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention saying it did not "recommend the use of face masks" to help combat the outbreak.

As more countries report new cases, Mr Yap and Ms Chen said it was important for authorities to "re-establish control" over information and rumours that spark hoarding and panic-buying. - AFP