An empty Vancouver Costco bread aisle cleared out by shoppers stocking up in fear of COVID-19 on the evening of Monday, March 2, 2020. (Shane Nelson/Twitter)

Amid COVID-19 panic, B.C. psychologist urges shoppers to not clear out grocery stores

Urgency, scarcity and anxiety are spurring shoppers to overbuy

The new coronavirus may be spreading around the world but there’s no need for British Columbians to clear out grocery stores, a clinical psychologist from the University of B.C. said.

“It’s a little bit like a stampede at a sporting event,” Steven Taylor said.

“Once one person starts stampeding for the exit, everyone does.”

In this case, the stampede has been to the grocery store and images all over social media show busy shops, empty shelves and full shopping carts.

Taylor said that’s likely because of well-meaning advice from Canadian health officials to stock up on a two-week supply of food, household essentials and medication.

“That’s good advice but many people don’t have those kinds of supplies,” Taylor told Black Press Media by phone.

That has led to a rush that has cleared out groceries stores, particularly warehouses like Costco.

READ MORE: Prepare for new coronavirus like an emergency, health minister advises

Taylor said that in B.C., which has seen nine cases of COVID-19 so far, buying a whole shelf of toilet paper is probably not necessary when buying a backup of your essentials is probably enough.

“Fear is contagious. Imagine you’re on the Titanic and you see everyone rushing for the [life] boats. You’re not going to stop and twiddle your thumbs – you’re going to follow the crowd,” he said.

“Urgency, scarcity and anxiety are the big three players in the initial panicked buying, and from there I think it snowballed.”

Images of empty shelves and crowded stores have scared people who may not have initially been concerned, Taylor said, but it’s important to remember that images that go viral are not an accurate view of the situation.

“If an image is dramatic, it’s not going to be representative of the way things are,” Taylor said. “People need to remind themselves… that an image of a fully stocked supermarket shelf and calm shoppers, that’s not going to go viral.”

READ MORE: B.C. confirms 9th case of COVID-19 as man who travelled to Iran

READ MORE: Tensions rise as U.S. death toll from coronavirus reaches 9


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey monitoring traffic as vehicles again clog city streets

Compared with city’s 2019 weekly average, deepest volume reduction was in late March with up to 46 per cent less vehicles

Refund emails from City of White Rock a ‘phishing’ scam

IT staff work to nullify security breach in ‘classic phishing campaign’

Art’s Scarecrow Festival returns in September

Sixth annual event will be different than previous events because of the pandemic

Surrey’s top cop is keynote speaker at Surrey Board of Trade AGM

Asssistant Commissioner Brian Edwards will be on deck at Tuesday’s ‘virtual’ meeting

B.C. records new COVID-19 death, 85 more cases; Horgan calls on celebrity help

This brings the total number of active confirmed cases to 531 across the province

Horvat scores 2 as Vancouver Canucks beat Blues 5-2 in NHL playoff opener

Game 2 in best-of-seven series goes Friday night

Teachers to get 2 extra days to prepare for students’ return, now set for Sept. 10

Students will first start with orientation and learn rules of COVID-19 classroom policies

High-volume littering at Cape Scott draws ire from hiking groups

Popular Vancouver Island hiking spot not closing, but frustration about crowding grows

SFU to drop ‘Clan’ varsity team name

The ‘Clan’ name is shortened from ‘Clansmen,’ and was introduced roughly 55 years ago

New Tory leader must build a strong team in Commons and for the campaign: Scheer

Scheer marked his final day in the House of Commons today as leader of the Opposition

B.C. to hire 500 more COVID-19 contact tracers ahead of fall

Contract tracers add an ‘extra layer’ in the fight against the novel coronavirus

Feds commit $305M in additional funds for Indigenous communities during COVID-19

Money can be used to battle food insecurity and support children and mental health

We were a bit tone deaf: Hobo Cannabis renamed Dutch Love after backlash

Hobo Cannabis has various locations in Vancouver, Kelowna and Ottawa

Most Read