‘Not a square to spare’: World reacts to toilet roll panic
VISION of Australians scrambling over each other to panic buy multi-packs of toilet paper has been beamed across the world, leaving many wondering what's really going on Down Under.
Stories published on The Washington Post, The New York Times, Reuters and the BBC all included one particular quote yesterday from chief medical officer Professor Brendan Murphy questioning the approach being taken by roll-ravenous Australians.
"We are trying to reassure people that removing all of the lavatory paper from the shelves of supermarkets probably isn't a proportionate or sensible thing to do at this time," he said.
Prof Murphy today reiterated: "There is no reason to delude the shelves of lavatory paper."
The articles acknowledged the sudden rationing of the precious ply by supermarket chains such as Woolworths.
"Not a square to spare," the Reuters headline read.
In keeping with the tongue-in-cheek reactions, satirical British TV panel show, Have I Got News For You, offered up one suggestion to bolster the apparent shortage.
The program shared a photograph on Twitter of former prime minister David Cameron's memoir, For The Record.
"As coronavirus panic buying causes a toilet roll shortage in Australia, the first Red Cross supplies arrive in Sydney," the caption read.
As coronavirus panic buying causes a toilet roll shortage in Australia, the first Red Cross supplies arrive in Sydney: pic.twitter.com/uqKZg5q1Sy— Have I Got News For You (@haveigotnews) March 4, 2020
New York Times contributor Justin Wolfers, an Australian economist based in Michigan, said there was "deadset toilet paper panic" happening in Australia.
On Twitter, he shared an image of someone selling a 20-pack of Quilton 3-ply toilet paper on auction site eBay, which after 23 bids was at $58 with 10 hours still left to go.
There is a deadset toilet paper panic going on in Australia right now. Stores are sold out, so of course there's a secondary market emerging. Here's a 20-pack on eBay, with 23 bids, and with 10 hours left to go, it's at $A58 = $US38. pic.twitter.com/G6taxhRwH2— Justin Wolfers (@JustinWolfers) March 4, 2020
Tech analyst and journalist Justin Warren, from his Twitter account Humans: Ruining Everything Since Forever, replied: "Does your model account for the Australian propensity to take the piss?"
Wolfers later wrote the economics behind toilet paper shortages were the same as bank runs.
"Even if you're not freaked out about a pandemic, you worry that everyone else is and they'll stockpile … and you don't want to be left paperless," he said.
"So you run and get toilet paper not because you need dozens of rolls, but because you fear that others are going to stockpile leaving none for you."
Here are some other responses to the Australian dunny roll dash from across the world.
Live coronavirus updates: Australia’s top doctor says stockpiling toilet paper not "proportionate or sensible" as shelves lie empty https://t.co/ThlrL8g1tc— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) March 4, 2020
Australian journalists Mark Di Stefano and Lauren Ingram, both now based in London, offered their thoughts about the wild Mad Max scenes and had some questions. Sydney-based writer Mireille Juchau compared Australians to the French, sharing an article about a surge in the purchase of philosopher Albert Camus' novel The Plague (La Peste).
Can someone explain to me what’s happening in Australia specifically with toilet paper? No one in the UK is stocking up on that specifically...— Lauren Ingram (@laureningram) March 3, 2020
Australia has gone full Mad Max on toilet paper. France is nationalising hand sanitizer. 2020 is wiiiiiiild. https://t.co/BWIsKP5J3V— Mark Di Stefano (@MarkDiStef) March 4, 2020
In France they buy literature, in Australia... toilet paper. https://t.co/rAfZEMzFlZ— Mireille Juchau (@MireilleJuchau) March 3, 2020
According to this video from the South China Morning Post, Australians weren't the only ones rushing to fill the bathroom cupboards, with similar scenes playing out in virus-hit countries such as Italy and Japan.
People panic buying toilet paper due to coronavirus fears have emptied store shelves in Australia, Italy, Japan, Singapore, the US and elsewhere pic.twitter.com/vSWRkWpdin— SCMP News (@SCMPNews) March 4, 2020
Back home, some local journalists tried to water down the toilet paper panic, noting a number of major manufacturers are based in Australia.
What we know: Toilet paper is made in Australia. Suppliers say they can produce to meet demand. Question: What the heck is going on?— Matt Thompson 🇦🇺 (@MattThompson) March 3, 2020
RELATED: Aussie toilet paper panic explained
In a late-night update, Kleenex manufacturer Kimberly-Clark said staff were "working around the clock" at their South Australian mill to replenish shelves.
"As you can see we won't be running out anytime soon," the company said on Facebook alongside a photo of its well-stocked warehouse.
A truck carrying toilet paper caught fire on Brisbane's Gateway Motorway overnight but responding fire crews said they were able to save half of the "quite precious" load.