Coronavirus panic buying prompts toilet roll rationing in Australia

Shelves are empty of toilet rolls in a supermarket in Sydney after fears of the coronavirus sparked panic buying on March 4, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 04 March 2020

Coronavirus panic buying prompts toilet roll rationing in Australia

  • Woolworths said the restriction of four packs of toilet paper per person would apply
  • Police had to be called to a Sydney supermarket at lunchtime Wednesday when a knife was drawn in a toilet paper aisle

SYDNEY: Australia’s biggest supermarket on Wednesday announced a limit on toilet paper purchases after the global spread of coronavirus sparked a spate of panic buying Down Under.
Woolworths said the restriction of four packs of toilet paper per person would apply “to ensure more customers have access to the products.”
Hand sanitizers will also be sold from behind the service counter and restricted to two per person.
“It will help shore up stock levels as suppliers ramp up local production and deliveries in response to higher-than-usual demand,” the company said in a statement.
Despite government assurances, there has been a run on some items at Australian supermarkets, with images on social media purportedly showing shelves stripped of goods and shoppers piling trolleys high with toilet paper.
Police had to be called to a Sydney supermarket at lunchtime Wednesday when a knife was drawn in a toilet paper aisle.
New South Wales Police confirmed officers went to the western Sydney supermarket but said there were no arrests and no injuries.
It is believed a knife was raised in the air by a startled hearing- and speech-impaired customer during a heated exchange over toilet rolls.
Retailers have also experienced shortages of masks and hand sanitizers sparked by fears over the deadly coronavirus outbreak, which has infected more than 90,000 people and killed more than 3,100.
The vast majority of cases have been in China, but South Korea, Italy and Iran have also emerged as hotspots.
Australia has reported 43 confirmed cases of the virus, including one death.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he had spoken to the country’s two major supermarket chains — Woolworths and its rival Coles — about their response to panic buying.
“I can understand why people may be concerned, and go to supermarkets, and do those sorts of things. But the advice is that’s not necessary,” he told 2GB Radio on Wednesday.


WHO sees first results from COVID drug trials within two weeks

Updated 03 July 2020

WHO sees first results from COVID drug trials within two weeks

  • WHO officials defended their response to the virus that emerged in China last year
  • Ryan said what he regretted was that global supply chains had broken, depriving medical staff of protective equipment

GENEVA/LONDON: The World Health Organization (WHO) should soon get results from clinical trials it is conducting of drugs that might be effective in treating COVID-19 patients, its Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Friday.
“Nearly 5,500 patients in 39 countries have so far been recruited into the Solidarity trial,” he told a news briefing, referring to clinical studies the UN agency is conducting.
“We expect interim results within the next two weeks.”
The Solidarity Trial started out in five parts looking at possible treatment approaches to COVID-19: standard care; remdesivir; the anti-malaria drug touted by US President Donald Trump, hydroxychloroquine; the HIV drugs lopinavir/ritonavir; and lopanivir/ritonavir combined with interferon.
Earlier this month, it stopped the arm testing hydroxychloroquine, after studies indicated it showed no benefit in those who have the disease, but more work is still needed to see whether it may be effective as a preventative medicine.
Mike Ryan, head of the WHO’s emergencies program, said it would be unwise to predict when a vaccine could be ready against COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus that has killed more than half a million people.
While a vaccine candidate might show its effectiveness by year’s end, the question was how soon it could be mass produced, he told the UN journalists’ association ACANU in Geneva.
There is no proven vaccine against the disease now, while 18 potential candidates are being tested on humans.
WHO officials defended their response to the virus that emerged in China last year, saying they had been driven by the science as it developed. Ryan said what he regretted was that global supply chains had broken, depriving medical staff of protective equipment.
“I regret that there wasn’t fair, accessible access to COVID tools. I regret that some countries had more than others, and I regret that front-line workers died because of (that),” he said.
He urged countries to get on with identifying new clusters of cases, tracking down infected people and isolating them to help break the transmission chain.
“People who sit around coffee tables and speculate and talk (about transmission) don’t achieve anything. People who go after the virus achieve things,” he said.