I have not been to the grocery store in nearly two weeks. I have been going out just for my daily walks though one day I did take a drive to the countryside for about half an hour just to get a change of scenery and also because I did not want to risk my car battery going dead from lack of use.
There are mixed reports in the media about the reliability of the supply chain for grocery stores. Authorities assure us that there is no shortage of food and other essentials except that suppliers have had to switch the way their products are packaged from largely serving restaurants to serving grocery stores. But some people report empty stores. How well and how frequently the stores are restocked may depend on where you live. Some places report that most items are available while in other areas the shelves are stocked each morning but get quickly emptied by people still panic buying. It appears that if people buy just what they need for a week or two, instead of months, there would be no problem.
This article gives some common sense suggestions on how to shop and what to do to minimize the risk of getting the virus.
Don’t hoard. Panic-buying has prompted some people to fight over toilet paper and pilfer from others’ shopping carts. Take what you need for the week; leave food for others. Be reassured that while there may be some empty shelves and temporary shortages of some items, food makers are confident in the supply chain and that we’ll have plenty to eat.
Remember that the check out clerks are the ones at most risk from getting infected and are under considerable stress and we owe it to them to minimize their risk and the article suggests some things we can do.
Be kind to your checkout person. Try to maintain a reasonable distance at checkout. If paying with cash, set the money on the counter rather than handing it to the cashier. And given that this is an opportunity for in-person social interaction, try to make the most of it and be friendly. “Try to maintain distance at checkout, but be pleasant and supportive,” Dr. Amler said. “There is a risk to them, being in that environment all the time. You might want to thank them for working during this hectic period.”
I will need to do some grocery shopping fairly soon. What I may do is try out for the first time the option of ordering and paying online and then going at a designated time to have the groceries loaded in the trunk, thus avoiding going into the store at all.
I have been having contact with others online during this time but a couple of days ago on my walk I encountered my neighbor with her dog. While keeping the recommended six feet apart from each other, we chatted for about 20 minutes. I did not even pet her dog who usually gives me a rapturous greeting as if we are best buddies. At the end as we parted, we both commented about how nice it was to speak to a three-dimensional person rather than someone we see on a screen. There is something special about direct human contact that gets lost when mediated by technology, however good it may be in terms of image and sound quality.
On another walk, I noticed some other neighbors getting out of their car and unloading a huge amount of toilet paper. I had thought that the wave of panic buying should have ended by now but apparently not. According to Jonathan Pie, this inexplicable desire to amass huge quantities of toilet paper seems to be present in the UK too. He says that the devastating economic impact of the virus will aggravate class distinctions and economic inequality even more as the rich and many in the middle class can ride through the pandemic while those who cannot work from home and lose their jobs will be devastated.