Panic buying and the UK response to coronavirus

I don’t understand the panic buying. Do people not realise you can order groceries online and have them delivered? Anyone facing quarantine can still order groceries and have them delivered to their home. There’s no need to buy stuff to last the duration of the quarantine. Also, you can’t buy several weeks’ worth of fresh fruit and vegetables because they’ll go bad and fresh fruit and vegetables are what we should all be consuming in large quantities to boost immune functionKale is especially good. It’s cheap and widely available in supermarkets. It can also be grown easily in the Scottish climate.

Last year I bought red lentils and oats in bulk in preparation for a no-deal Brexit but fortunately that never happened. Believe it or not, we’re still making our way through the red lentils and oats I bought! I do quite like buying in bulk like this because it reduces waste and is usually cheaper. I recently tried visiting some refilleries (shops that let you bring your own bottle and fill it) with my soap and shampoo bottles so as not to throw them away but it was very expensive. The refilling cost more than the original purchase. Instead, I’ve discovered that Newton Dee sells shampoo, conditioner, detergent, hand soap, toilet cleaner, and lots more in big 5L containers. A single-use plastic container is usually only about 400ml so 5L will let me refill my containers many times at home. I will still need to recycle the 5L container but it’s better than recycling dozens of smaller ones … I think.

The UK, it seems, is going out on a limb with its coronavirus strategy. For instance, we are one of the few countries in Europe not to have closed schools. I think it will probably happen at some point but I agree with the government’s position not to close them yet. It’s too soon. But their strategy also seems to be to let the disease spread throughout the community in a controlled way so we eventually develop herd immunity.

Graham Medley is a professor of infectious disease modelling and he explains the problem and gives some good reasons for why we shouldn’t close schools:


I also saw this thread on Twitter:

Whether or not the government is right with this strategy I can’t say but I do think Boris Johnson is following the advice of experts. I also wonder what the long-term plan is for those places in lockdown. It’s not a position they can continue indefinitely and it’s now clear the virus is not going away. As soon as the restrictions are lifted the transmission will return so it’s not clear to me what their plans are. Will they enforce a lockdown until a vaccine is available next year? That doesn’t seem doable.

For now, everything is continuing as normal here. We went to Newton Dee for lunch yesterday and it was quite busy. Although I see on its website that as of today it is now shut for the foreseeable future. The D33 marathon continued as planned yesterday and we saw lots of people running along Deeside Way. Elizabeth had her usual Highland Dance lesson and today she’s got an exam practice lesson which is still going ahead. I’m a bit of a homebody anyway so being confined to the home doesn’t bother me, especially since I’ve got such a wonderful family to share it with. But for people who live alone, I can imagine that sort of isolation will take a toll if it continues for too long. My advice is, eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables (preferably go vegan!) to boost your immune system, learn how to shop online, find a hobby you can do at home like knitting or crochet, and get lots of good books to read.

21 thoughts on “Panic buying and the UK response to coronavirus”

  1. I’m a bit busy catching up with work this weekend so haven’t had time to catch up with the herd immunity theory. However there was an article about some scientists writing a letter to the government urging them to start closing things off soon.
    I have a Chinese student staying with me so have an everyday insight into what’s going on back home and so I agree the panic buying is silly – obviously whole countries are locked down and they haven’t starved to death in their homes, systems quickly kick into place for delivery.
    I would love to have some more time to practise the piano if we do go into lock down (and also to catch up with the herd immunity theory). I just hope they keep schools open till Thursday as I have two students doing the Intermediate Maths Olympiad and they have been working for the last couple of years to get to this point.

    1. Yes, I saw headlines about the group letter sent to the government. There’s also been a lot of criticism on Twitter.

      I also hope schools stay open for a bit longer because Elizabeth’s highland dance exam is next weekend and she’s been practising for so long for it now.

    2. What does your Chinese visitor say about the long-term plan in China? Are restrictions lifting now or are they going to continue for a long time?

      1. They seem to be going month by month. Everyone got bored watching their teachers podcast on their iPhones! I will ask her about what the medium/long term plans will be. But it does seem that a compliant population doing everything they are told has helped with the control. Things like supplying hygiene equipment for delivery workers too, it sounds quite organised.

  2. The idea with closing schools right now in Ireland is to slow it down. Nobody thinks it’ll be gone in two weeks. The pubs were still open last night and there’s videos of idiots in a packed Dublin pub singing. They’ll be the ones infecting their families and killing their elderly parents or grand parents.

    My wife was supposed to be singing with her choir tomorrow night but that’s cancelled. All social and sporting events are cancelled. It feels stressful going out for a walk with the dog and each family unit stays away from the others. I can’t imagine the worry if you lived in a built up area.

    Hopefully we’ll “flatten the curve” and help the health services cope with this ordeal. Our hospitals were already woefully underfunded with people emigrating to Australia rather that cope with the dreadful pay and conditions here. They need all the help they can get.

    Everyone over here is going “WTF!” when they hear what the UK Government is doing. It just doesn’t make sense. They’re going to sacrifice the old and those with existing conditions. I swear, after Brexit, it seems those in power in the UK will be contrary just to be doing the opposite of everyone else.

    Stay safe, do keep your distance from people, wash your hands. The virus is already all around you. Act like you already have the virus and you don’t want to spread it. (and now I sound like a bloody conspiracy nut but I don’t care.)

    1. How long will schools be shut in Ireland – have they said? Who is looking after the children? Are parents stopping work to be at home or do people leave them with grandparents? I think that is one of the worries here – that parents who work will leave the children with grandparents which is likely worse for the health of the grandparents than leaving the kids in school.

      The UK may be making a mistake but I’m pretty sure this isn’t a political decision by Boris Johnson and his government. From what I can tell this is the best advice from the experts assigned to the problem. I also saw on Twitter that they are possibly trying to avoid a situation like this:

      1. Schools will be shut until the 29th, but since Easter holidays are a week later I wonder if they’ll just keep them closed. Advice has been that kids are not allowed to mix with kids from other families. No play dates, no going to the playgrounds, no visiting grand parents. I’ve paid a lot of attention to this post I shared on FB a few days ago about how things are in Italy. It’s only a matter of time before it’s like that in Scotland and Ireland.

        I just got back from a walk by the local river. There were loads of people out but all in distinct groups. We met some friends and it was surreal talking to them leaving a meter or two gap between us. Their daughter is autistic and she would be more vulnerable to infection..

        Unfortunately parents have to take time off work to mind kids. Yes, that means that health staff won’t be working. The Irish Government has increased payments for anyone laid off because of disruptions the virus has caused.

        I don’t know if there will be a second wave of infections next winter. There’s hundreds of millions of Euro/GBP/USD being invested in vaccine research right now because of the impact on the stock market and world economy. I heard a doctor on a radio interview say we might see a vaccine in September.
        I would like to think we’re better prepared to deal with this than they were in 1918. Fingers crossed. But I do know we should try to get herd immunity in place without putting vulnerable people in danger.

      2. I hope there is a vaccine by September but I searched online and I can’t see anywhere to suggest that this could happen. This article says it’ll take 18 months to develop a vaccine –

        Do you really want schools to be closed for a year or more. The virus isn’t going to be gone after the Easter holidays. It will still be here. The advice here now is for people over the age of 70 to self-isolate for an extended period (4+ months) and that seems the most sensible option out of all the terrible options.

      3. I’ll see if I can dig up the podcast I heard that.

        Schools won’t be closed that long. It’s a balancing act. Long enough to delay the virus and not overwhelm the hospitals but not too long that causes a bad recession.

      4. I read that Boris said that 18 month figure too which is depressing. Various other podcasts/interviews are saying schools will have to be closed for much longer, maybe to the end of the year! I’m glad to see the UK Gov take a more pro-active stance but they really should be enforcing closures rather than asking people not to go to pubs and nightclubs. The Irish Gov tried that and the pubs were still packed.

        There are an estimated 140,000 out of work because of the disruption in Ireland alone but if everything went back to normal our hospitals could not cope. They can barely cope with ordinary demands. I found that podcast, which seems hopelessly optimistic now.

        I’m going to try blogging this more. I published the first post last night. 🙂

      5. Yes, I think the UK has got tougher since the results of that Imperial College report were published. I still hope we don’t see the sorts of lockdowns they’re having in Spain, France, and Italy because it seems unsustainable to me to ask people to stay inside their homes for 18 months. Imagine not even being able to go out for a walk as you explained on your blog. There will be great social unrest when people revolt.

        I think folks think it’ll just be for a few weeks and then restrictions will lift but I cannot see how that can happen. They suspect there could be 50,000 people infected here now (and I accept the maths which allows us to make this extrapolation calculation) which means as soon as restrictions are lifted the transmission will ramp up again. What is clear is that this will be around for a LONG TIME to come and we will need to consider all options. Maybe I’m just being pessimistic but I like to think it’s realism. I also heard on the BBC news today that it can take decades to create a vaccine. Did you know we still have no vaccine for SARS?

      6. Things are going to have to change. We will all get through this eventually but it’s early days yet. I think more strict lockdowns will be required, if only for a few weeks. Here’s a video made by an Irish woman in Bologna which is really awful. You need to document why you’re outside of your house to go anywhere. You have to be by yourself.

        I saw a Tweet this morning saying the number of new cases in Italy over the last 3 days hadn’t increased much meaning that they’re slowly winning. I didn’t verify those numbers.
        If containment can stop people getting infected for long enough the virus will disappear. It’s going to take a gigantic world wide effort.
        It won’t take decades. Vaccines usually take a year or two at the most. Yup, I knew about SARS. The virus fizzled out in mid-development. If they had a vaccine for that they could have used it as a base for this virus. 😦

      7. That’s a good video. Protecting vulnerable groups doesn’t just benefit vulnerable groups; it also benefits the rest of us because we may need the health service for a different reason over the coming months and they won’t be able to help us if they’re inundated.
        I don’t think we can say we’re winning if numbers of new infections decline due to the lockdown. Of course they’ll decline with these stringent measures. The question is what will happen when the restrictions are lifted.

  3. To date, we’ve got eight confirmed cases here in NZ so far, which I know isn’t a lot in the big scheme of things, but events are being shut down all over the place, anyway. There have been so many animal to human virus pandemics over the last twenty years, I don’t know why people still eat animals like they do. I’m not talking about those for whom survival depends on including animals in their diet, but those for whom it’s simply a choice.

    1. Yes, I agree. I’m surprised there isn’t more focus on the risks associated with livestock and wildlife markets. It’s not just viruses but also antibiotic resistance caused by antibiotics being given to livestock.

  4. If you didn’t catch it, this Sundays Radio 4 “Food Programme” is well worth listening to for a number of reasons, but especially the last segment (around 22mins in) with an interview about zoonotic diseases, recent Chinese cultural practices and a connection with population growth and Climate change with Prof. Andrew Cunningham

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