Toilet paper panic hits Greater Victoria as shoppers prep for threat of COVID-19

Save-On-Foods at the Oak Bay/Victoria border sells out of toilet paper, hand sanitizer

The Fort and Foul Bay Save-On-Foods was well stocked with toilet paper on Friday though customers purchased all of their stock in the previous days. (Steve Huxter Photo/Oak Bay Local)

As Cliff Sigurdson sat outside the Save-On-Foods store at Fort and Foul Bay on Friday morning, he enjoyed coffee, a cigarette and casual conversations with passing shoppers.

The topic was toilet paper, as he couldn’t help but notice almost every shopper had at least one bag of it. In a panic to prepare for the threat of COVID-19 flu virus, shoppers in the Jubilee and Oak Bay neighbourhoods completely emptied the Save-On-Foods shelves of toilet paper and hand sanitizer earlier this week.

“Some people have two or three bags,” Sigurdson said. “Something weird is going on.”

Management at Save-On-Foods was able to restock overnight, only to see the shelves emptied again.

As of Monday morning there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Vancouver Island.

While there is cause to practice good hygiene behaviour, Oak Bay Emergency Program Manager Eileen Grant said she couldn’t figure out the urge to buy toilet paper.

“We talked about it and none of us came up with a reason for it,” Grant said. “But, if you need groceries, and you don’t want to go out, have a friend pick them up for you and leave them at your front door.”

In addition to heeding the recommendations of Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and washing your hands like you’re going to take your contacts out after touching a hot pepper, Grant reminded the public to clean their cell phones.

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“I hear it’s hard to find sanitizers and wipes but just use a good old dish cloth with soap,” Grant said. “Cell phones have every germ, and we put them by our face.”

If you do feel flu symptoms coming on call 811 and expect a wait time, but do not go to the emergency room where it increases spreading the flu to vulnerable people, Grant said.

“If you are going to a health clinic, call ahead so they know when you are coming,” Grant said.

Federal finance minister Bill Morneau said the government will increase its risk adjustment provision in its forthcoming budget to ensure that it is ready and able to respond to COVID-19. The rapidly spreading flu virus has caused dramatic drops in the stock market and has sickened dozens of Canadians and hundreds of thousands more globally.

One staff member at the Save-On-Foods said she’d worked 30 years in the business and had never seen anything like it. The store also sold out of hand sanitizers.

Some customers purchased so much toilet paper, she doesn’t know how they get it all home.

Save-On-Foods representatives had not responded by press time.

The same thing was underway at Costco in Langford where the shelves were empty, and reports were that people were taking three giant-sized bundles each.

But it’s not a panic everywhere. While there was a spike in sanitizer sales and baby wipes at the Fairway Market on Oak Bay Avenue the store is otherwise well-stocked on toilet paper.

As for Cliff, he’s got nothing to worry about. He’s already stocked up and all Cliff needs is a good cup of coffee.

Be like Cliff. Stay calm, and wash regularly with soap.

reporter@oakbaynews.com

– With files from Canadian Press


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