Hold on to your loo roll. As coronavirus infections accelerate, Britain is on the brink of second wave of panic-buying, according to headlines this weekend.
Morrisons has re-introduced door marshals, Sainsbury’s and Ocado are warning delivery slots are selling out faster than usual amid high demand and people have taken to Twitter to share photos of empty shelves across the mults, according to various reports in the nationals.
At the same time, local authorities have unwittingly stoked pandemic paranoia with the #30days30waysUK campaign – which saw tweets urging people to stock up on at least 72 hours-worth of food and drink, and pack grab bags full of emergency items in case they need to flee their homes – sent out from a number of official accounts.
“To be household prepared, ensure you have a plan and supplies for 72 hours or more depending on circumstances. Create a grab bag with key items in case of a sudden evacuation,” said one such tweet, which was subsequently deleted.
Given the horrors we have endured so far in 2020, people unsurprisingly jumped to the conclusion the authorities knew of some impending disaster of which we hadn’t yet been informed. A nuclear attack, perhaps, or an alien invasion.
It turns out that #30days30waysUK is an annual “gamified emergency risk communication campaign” started by Northamptonshire County Council several years ago to mark the fact that September is ‘Preparedness Month’.
No need to panic, then. Although the fact local authorities thought it was a good idea to run that particular campaign again this year, in the middle of a global pandemic, is in itself quite troubling.
As one person put it on Twitter “would anyone be surprised at this point with a zombie apocalypse”?
The government hasn’t done much to settle national nerves. PM Boris Johnson was conspicuously absent when Professor Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance addressed the nation this morning, warning the UK could be facing 50,000 new Covid-19 cases a day by mid-October, if the current infection rate was not halted.
The PM is reportedly due to address the nation tomorrow to reveal plans for a winter lockdown, but for now #WhereIsBorisJohnson is trending on Twitter while No 10 vigorously denies rumours he flew to Perugia, Italy this month with Carrie Symonds.
It was down to the supermarkets, then, to once again call for calm.
“Retailers have done an excellent job in ensuring customers have access to the food and necessities throughout this pandemic,” said Andrew Opie, director of food & sustainability at the British Retail Consortium.
“Supply chains are stronger than ever before and we do not anticipate any issues in the availability of food or other goods under any future lockdown. Nonetheless, we urge consumers to be considerate of others and shop as they normally would.”
Indeed the only thing that could disrupt supplies, supermarket sources warn, is more panic buying like we saw in March. So let’s just hope shoppers get the message this time, and purchase their loo roll and pasta responsibly.
Carina is responsible for running and developing The Grocer’s digital operations. She commissions high-quality digital journalism from our award-winning editorial team and thought-provoking comment from industry players.
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