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Coronavirus: Reports of lengthy lines, shelves running low at several Ontario grocery stores

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As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to grow in the Greater Toronto Area and Canada, residents are flocking to local grocery stores with shoppers reporting long lines and a diminishing number of items on shelves.

On Twitter Thursday evening, four out of the top five trending topics in Toronto had to do with retail stores. Shoppers posted photos, videos and messages of their experiences.

“First time I’ve lived through a panic-storming of grocery stores. All I wanted was apples and yogurt. Forty-five-minute wait to cash out at Loblaws. No thanks,” David J. Doorey tweeted Thursday evening, sharing a photo of a line several-people deep.

READ MORE: All publicly funded schools in Ontario closing for 2 weeks due to COVID-19

“Is it possible people in Toronto are overreacting just a little? Or are we at this point now?”

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Twitter user Tyler Munro shared a photo at around 5:30 p.m. of a No Frills store near Lansdowne Avenue and Dundas Street West that appeared to show approximately 20 people waiting to get inside.

Several of the Twitter posts focused on a major shortage in toilet paper despite the fact officials said the most widely reported symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough and difficulty breathing.

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Thuy Doan tweeted a video inside a store and it appeared to show two long shelves that were mostly empty.

“In resource news in relation to coronavirus, I just went to Walmart, Fortino’s, Shoppers Drug Mart, Canadian Tire, No Frills, and Dollarama in search of toilet paper: NONE,” Doan wrote.

“Resorted to inflated toilet paper prices on Amazon but at least I can have toilet paper.”

The spike in social media posts comes on the same day the Ontario government announced that all publicly funded elementary and secondary schools will be closed until April 5. March break in the province begins on Monday.

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Thursday also saw this biggest single-day increase in the number of COVID-19 cases. In total, 17 new cases were announced Thursday morning. The total number of confirmed cases to date in the province is 59.

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Amid concerns shared online about panic buying, Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, a professor at Dalhousie University whose research focuses on food distribution, security and safety, previously told Global News that once the current initial panic period passes, there shouldn’t be any issue getting essentials and food.

“Supply chains have gotten smarter over the years,” Charlebois said.

READ MORE: As panic-buying increases, expert says supply chain should hold up

“They are able to adapt to 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.”

— With files from Allison Bench

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