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)

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

Laura Barnes is to feature some of her artwork at Gallery at Central Plaza next month. (Contributed photo)
New artist showcase coming to White Rock gallery

Laura Barnes work, mixing brights and darks, to be displayed in February

Surrey Community Cat Foundation received funding to assist with medical procedures. (File photo)
SurreyCats receives grant to assist with spay/neuter costs

PetSmart Charities of Canada donates $5,000

White Rock Public Library (File photo)
Surrey, White Rock literacy leaders kick off Family Literacy Week

Literacy events to take place Jan. 24 to 31

Beds are set up at the emergency response centre at the North Surrey Recreation Centre. (Contributed file photo)
26 people test positive for COVID-19 at Surrey emergency shelter

Centre located at North Surrey Recreation Centre

Surrey firefighters respond to a townhouse fire Sunday morning. (Shane MacKichan photos)
Firefighters respond to townhouse fire in Surrey

Fire ‘knocked down quickly’: witness

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

sd
VIDEO: Mission drag racer scores 1st career win, sets world record, makes history in 2020

Justin Bond, founder and owner of JBS Equipment Mission, has break-out year

Most Read