I knew when I was at the supermarket last Friday that things were getting crazy when I noticed no hand sanitizers - all gone, all sold out - and barely any tissues left on the shelves. The supermarket seemed busy, but I assumed it was the Lotto queue and the quest for $50 million that was driving people in.
But later that day we got confirmed news of our first coronavirus case.
By Saturday morning, news reports had supermarkets in Auckland limiting customers due to the surge of people “panic buying”. Supermarkets at capacity. People were rushing, there were snaking queues at check outs, even queues outside the door to get in.
Foodstuffs was forced to put out a statement saying customer numbers inside supermarkets would be limited, they also asked that customers try to just shop normally, to resist the urge to stock up because it puts unnecessary pressure on stores.
Here’s the thing, you can put out all the ‘don’t panic’ statements you like, there seems to be a general lack of trust or faith that this is in hand. I get the feeling people don’t feel like this is under control. Either that or we’ve all gone mental. Our response to one case of Coronavirus is embarrassing.
Global reports that the world’s been too slow to react don't help. Here in NZ, we’ve had scaremongering story after story of how our airport screening isn't vigilant enough (are people expecting customs officials to take every incoming passengers temperature?)
But the lack of faith means people are taking managing this virus into their own hands, and that’s before they even have it yet.
We shouldn’t panic, of course, but I guess it's hard for some people not to when the media is screaming pandemic and mayhem from the front page.
The TV news the other night giving advice on how to wash your hands seemed like we had reached peak stupidity.
Thank goodness the PM stepped in and asked the media to back the truck up and start being a little more responsible in their reporting.
I've noticed kids have moved from freaking out about the planet and how we’re all going to die in a fiery climate change explosion, to now freaking out about Coronavirus. No wonder anxiety is rife.
Fear is a big driver of people’s responses and reactions to things, and it appears that’s all we’ve got driving us at the moment.
Some voices of calm and some realistic facts around what’s actually happening, would be good right now. It's a virus. We have one case here, he’s isolated and getting better.
No amount of buying hand sanitisers, rice and water bottles, is going to change a single thing. At this particular point, the average mortality rate if you catch the virus, is about 1 percent. We all need to calm down.