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Toilet paper, hand sanitizer flying off Okanagan shelves amid COVID-19 fears

The City is adding several publish washrooms to the core area, as a dignified way for vulnerable people to access basic facilities. Picture Alliance / Getty Images

The Okanagan Valley isn’t immune to demand for sanitation products, as hand cleaners, masks and toilet paper fly off the shelves amid COVID-19 fears.

Valley Medical Supply on Martin Street in Penticton, B.C., said it’s been completely sold out of masks for the past three weeks.

“Masks of any sort, regardless of whether they’re a recommended mask or not, we haven’t been able to source any type of mask for probably three weeks now,” said manager Carlo Ferrari.

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Customers have expressed their purchases are a precautionary response to protect themselves from the novel coronavirus, as well as protecting their loved ones stuck overseas.

“The masks, some people mentioned they were coming in to pick up masks to send them to family in China. So that’s where most of our masks seem to have gone,” he said.

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Ferrari added that wholesale suppliers, mostly based in Vancouver and Toronto, are having difficulties keeping up with demand for other cleansing products, such as hand sanitizer.

“They are just showing ‘short’ on anything that is a hand cleaner, same with the masks. It’s just saying ‘manufacturer short,'” Ferrari said, when trying to replenish stock by ordering online.

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Meanwhile, grocery stores across the Okanagan are struggling to keep up with the demand for toilet paper.

Buy-Low Foods in Vernon, B.C., said it sold out of 130 cases over the weekend.

“It’s crazy, people are stocking up. I don’t know if they are afraid it’s going to be the apocalypse, [but] I don’t think people need to stock up as much as they’ve been doing,” said assistant manager Darrell Camalush.
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He added that some customers attempted to fill their carts with eight to 10 toilet paper products, forcing the store to limit the available paper product to two per person.

Camalush said delivery trucks arrive on a near-daily basis, so the store is able to replenish the product quickly.

“Everybody is feeling the pressure, everybody is trying to keep the stock up and you can only carry so much, warehouses can only hold so much, you’re limited as to your space,” Camalush said.

“Everyone is doing to same like I’m doing — ordering it in, and as fast as I’m ordering it in and get it in, then they write another order.”

READ MORE: 2 Surrey schools notified of COVID-19 cases, Fraser Health says risk is low

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He said while hand sanitizer and Lysol wipes are also nearly out of stock, non-perishable food items are still plentiful.

“It’s kind of weird because it’s not so much the food that we are running out of, it’s all the cleaners and toilet paper, and toilet paper really kills me. I don’t know why that one,” Camalush said.

“I’m thinking, well, ok, Green Giant canned vegetables should be gone, but that stuff sells normal as it always has, but the toilet paper for some oddball reason just took off.”

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A person with the only confirmed case of COVID-19 in the Interior Health region continues to recover at home, according to health officials, and there is no risk of exposure to the public.

The demand for toilet paper and sanitation products is also prevalent on the Lower Mainland, where several more COVID-19 cases have been confirmed.

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On Monday, British Columbia announced the first COVID-19-related death in the country, along with five new cases of the virus.

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Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the man is one of two people at a North Vancouver care home who was diagnosed with the virus last week.

B.C. has confirmed 32 cases of COVID-19.

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Four people have recovered fully from the disease, and Henry said several of the other B.C. cases identified early in the outbreak are now asymptomatic.

Henry said officials are now waiting on tests to confirm that those patients had recovered.

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