COVID-19: As panic-buying increases, expert says supply chain should hold up

Click to play video: 'New coronavirus has people panic-buying'
New coronavirus has people panic-buying
WATCH ABOVE: As more Albertans are diagnosed with novel coronavirus, more people are scrambling to prepare for the virus and some are panic-buying and stock-piling supplies. Fletcher Kent has more – Mar 9, 2020

As stories of toilet paper hoarding and sold-out hand sanitizer around Canada circulate on social media, one supply chain expert says store shelves should remain stocked with product even as cases of COVID-19 increase.

Dr. Sylvain Charlebois is a professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax whose research focuses on food distribution, security and safety. He expects that while some prices could go up, once this initial panic period passes, there shouldn’t be any issue getting essentials and food.

“Supply chains have gotten smarter over the years,” Charlebois said. “They are able to adapt in shifts in demand for a variety of products. So we shouldn’t worry too much about food shortages.

“If you see an empty shelf in a store, chances are in a few days, you’ll see products on that shelf again.”

Charlebois said that about 11 per cent of households in Canada are “prone to panic buying.” In the U.S., it’s closer to 25 per cent.

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video: '‘People are buying toilet paper like it’s going out of style’: Calgarians stock up amid coronavirus concerns'
‘People are buying toilet paper like it’s going out of style’: Calgarians stock up amid coronavirus concerns

“We all have an inner panic buying button,” he said. “It’s particularly acute out west — in Alberta and B.C. — right now.”

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus outbreak: Alberta Health on COVID-19 stockpiling, panic'
Coronavirus outbreak: Alberta Health on COVID-19 stockpiling, panic

Alberta Health said that there’s no need to buy “large amounts” of essentials and that its advice is to make a quarantine plan with friends and family.

Story continues below advertisement

“We always recommend that people have about 72 hours of supplies for any emergency, and that’s typical advice you’ll hear from public health,” Alberta’s medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Monday.

“In this particular scenario, I think people are seeing what’s happening in other countries, maybe getting worried, and then starting to go out and buy large amounts of things.

“And that behavior in some ways, creates the problem they were afraid of,” Hinshaw said.

Click to play video: 'Prepping for COVID-19: Albertans shouldn’t be worrying about toilet paper'
Prepping for COVID-19: Albertans shouldn’t be worrying about toilet paper

Health Canada has advised to stock up on essentials, but specifically notes to “avoid panic buying.”

It said the reasoning behind getting extra essentials is to avoid leaving your home at the peak of an outbreak or if you become ill.

Story continues below advertisement

Global News spoke to several people stocking up on toilet paper in Edmonton on Monday, who said that they felt they were just being cautious by purchasing in bulk.

“I’m elderly,” said Ruth Schulz, “and not in that good of health. If I need to stay home for a couple of weeks, so be it.”

Mukhtar Noori said that he is taking it further and trying to get a six-month supply of toilet paper, toothpaste and non-perishables like rice and oil.

Story continues below advertisement
“[I’m] not scared,” he said. “Just preparation. And these things aren’t going to expire… if the government announces you have to stay home for awhile.”

LISTEN: Sylvain Charlebois joins Rob Breakenridge to discuss the effects of panic buying in Calgary

However, Charlebois said that a virus affects deliveries and supplies much differently than a natural disaster and that there’s no reason to think certain items will be hard to get.

Story continues below advertisement

“Viruses are much easier to manage from a supply chain perspective,” Charlebois said. “They give time for the entire chain to adapt.”

However, he added that even though stocks shouldn’t be a problem, it’s possible food prices could go up.

Sponsored content