OTTAWA – Last week federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu warned people should consider stockpiling food and medicine in case of a potential outbreak of the new coronavirus – despite the relatively low risk of contracting the disease within Canada.
But critics suggest her advice may have been overblown or too vague, prompting other problems.
This past weekend, shoppers stormed clubhouse and grocery stores to stock up on supplies like toilet paper and disinfectant wipes.
Customers at a Costco in Markham were also stocking up on supplies such as granola bars, nuts and eggs on Monday.
“It’s crazy in there. It’s like a Thanksgiving weekend,” said one shopper leaving the warehouse retailer.
Procedures have changed when you walk inside Costco. Shopping carts are cleaned with sanitizing wipes as customers wheel them inside.
There was also an announcement saying that paper towels, toilet paper, and bottled water were sold out.
In Thornhill, no one was lining up to get in the Golden Chopsticks restaurant.
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“Business is bad — very bad,” said owner Mali Gafny.
The Golden Chopsticks, a kosher Chinese food restaurant, has been in business for 23 years. Today, he said COVID-19 concerns mean sales are down 75 per cent compared to the same time last year.
“People come here and ask me if it’s safe to eat here, and I say of course it’s safe. Our people wear gloves and sometimes we wear masks. We are very clean and we clean twice a day,” said Gafny.
Some customers are not concerned about the spread of Coronavirus and made a trip to the restaurant to offer support.
“I heard that they were not doing well because of Coronavirus so I made a point to come here. Yeah, it’s tough.” said customer Mitch Zolty.
Christine Elliott, the health minister of Ontario – where three new cases of the virus were confirmed Monday – says she believes stockpiling is unnecessary, and that people should continue to go about their lives while being cautious.
Federal Conservative health critic Matt Jeneroux says telling people to stockpile can incite a lot of public concern, and that the government should be more specific about the steps people should take to prepare for a possible outbreak.
Other health officials, like Ottawa Public Health’s Dr. Vera Etches, say staying well supplied is good standby advice that’s always applicable.
—With files from Tom Hayes and Jessica Patton