What I will be discussing today is panic buying and how things should get better after PM Boris Johnson’s announcement Monday to lock-down the UK due to the coronavirus.
Supply lines are on 24-hour watch and are being restructured every day. Incredible people are working around the clock on this, as well as on many other issues that face supermarkets. Their focus is purely towards meeting consumer demand and maintaining confidence in supplies. So why are we still panic buying?
Many news outlets have emphasised the Christmas-like surge in consumption across the world in recent weeks. Australians managed to get #toiletpapergate trending on Twitter for a time (start of March). In the UK everyone is tweeting despondent pictures of empty shelves once stocked full of toilet roll, non-perishables and other foodstuffs. Some figures have suggested consumption has increased by 50% compared to this time last year.
I ask again why is there panic buying? Consumers just aren’t confident in supply chains. Even in a world where we can place an order with Amazon and receive it the following day. When it comes to food and self-preservation it appears we lack the same confidence. Hence, the single-minded sprint to the supermarket.
In the short-term, empty shelves do not mean the UK is out of provisions. At this point in time, it is simply indicative of crisis shopping and shop workers being unable to restock shelves at the speed in which they are emptied. However, we are only talking about the short term… if we do not heed the advice of Mr Johnson, and adhere to the lockdown protocols, then it is likely that we will see a break down in supply lines. Shopworkers get sick, as do key workers, and this is what will hurt us most.
The relaxation of competition laws in the UK has allowed supermarket chains to collaborate in sharing delivery resources, both in terms of vehicles and employees.
Staying at home for our NHS, social workers, and other essential skills personnel is what we should now be doing. And it will work. While we cannot yet control how the coronavirus spreads, Clare Foges of The Times noted that we can “control how we respond to it”.
The special shopping hours introduced to assist NHS workers, the elderly and vulnerable people is a start. However, the general public has to buy responsibly to ensure that those who are working during these hours are still able to access their essential provisions. Otherwise, it could will Mr Johnson to start rationing.
It is understandably daunting when we all see shelves empty and people with trolleys filled to the brim. But, we must understand that there is plenty of food for the general public – it just may not yet be on the shelves (Mr George Eustice- Environment Secretary).
This article is not supposed to give any advice or answers on how to prepare for the three-week lockdown. We may be forgiven for following this crisis minute by minute, but I believe this will do little to answer our concerns. My own mum has made sure we at home don’t do this because it can drive a person mad! Therefore, consider watching just the evening address and maybe also the morning headlines at most.
Written by Conservative Editor, Josh Tyrrell
Point of Information
Can we blame people for panicking? – a Labour Response
When I see these now common photos of empty shelves, I don’t think of a moral failure of the people buying the goods, or even the companies selling them (OK, maybe a little). Instead, I think of the failure of our government.
Our government’s response to this crisis has been lacklustre at the best of times, scarily lacking empathy at others, and just downright negligent for the remainder. The public has been subjected to flip-flopping on strategy, mixed with acts of historical revisionism to muddy our memories. Piers Morgan of all people had to call out our Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, for his false insistence that the government’s course has remained the same throughout.
When people see reports that a key government advisor said “protect the economy, and if that means some pensioners die, too bad,” it is not surprising that they would start to panic. When they hear horror stories coming out of Italy and Spain, but still see people filling the parks, pubs and plazas full, it is normal that they would see the writing on the wall and want to fill their pantry, knowing the same will come to pass here. Their fear is rational and their actions are the fault of our government.
If there is any silver lining at all to the shopping sprees, it is that a family panic buying a large quantity of food and supplies should be able to remain at home for the entire duration of the lockdown, minimising the risk of them catching and passing on the coronavirus.
What must be cracked down on, is those who profiteer from this disease by buying large quantities of goods and then reselling them at a premium. The government must clamp down on these price gougers immediately. Luckily, online retail platforms, like Amazon and eBay, have already started limiting such actions in the US, and it should not be difficult to adopt the same procedures here. Nobody should be able to sell a potentially life-saving bottle of hand sanitizer for £360! Especially, if the NHS is unable to provide for itself.
Overall what we needed was a more consistent, coherent government strategy. We have that, thanks to Boris’ most recent address. Let’s hope it is not too late.
Written by Labour Editor, Daniel Orchard
Good to relax people’s mind, but more is needed! – a Liberal response
Mr Tyrrell’s article is extremely informative in updating us on what has happened up to this point in time. To be honest, Boris Johnson has done fine. He certainly has not done as well as Germany but hasn’t done as badly as Spain. However, not enough is being done, and we are being to slow to react!
One of the most concerning stats from this is that we are on a very similar path to Italy. The fact that the public – other than stock pilling – don’t seem to take this seriously, is horrific. People are going on holiday to Snowdonia in a time of crisis!
Why the comparison with Italy is more worrying is that most of their deaths have come from within family households. Unlike the UK, Italy keeps their family elders with them. That is where most elderly are being infected and passing away. Despite this, the UK’s death rate and infection rate are growing at the same rate as Italy’s. The likelihood is that more people have the virus than the government even think.
This is a time for rational, yet urgent procedures. That does not mean take everything off the shelves at supermarkets as this only worsens the situation. But we need to realise the seriousness of this, more so than what Mr Tyrrell is saying. There wasn’t even any concern or mention for what is going to happen to the self-employed, homeless and the horrible way Wetherspoons is treating their staff.
Written by Liberal editor, Max Anderson