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‘Obscene’ coronavirus stockpiling hurts our most vulnerable

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

A widely-shared social media post by an infectious disease doctor has scolded those who have stockpiled toilet paper and other essential items.

A widely-shared social media post by an infectious disease doctor has scolded those who have stockpiled toilet paper and other essential items.

Toronto-based doctor Abdu Sharkawy wrote the masses caught up in a "spellbinding spiral of panic" risk bringing suffering to the elderly, poor and disenfranchised.

Dr Sharkaway prefaced his Facebook post by detailing his 20 years' experience working in Africa's slums and inner-city hospitals treating patients suffering from all kinds of infectious diseases, including HIV-AIDS, SARS and tuberculosis.

"I am not scared of Covid-19," Dr Sharkaway wrote.

"What I am scared about is the loss of reason and wave of fear that has induced the masses of society into a spellbinding spiral of panic, stockpiling obscene quantities of anything that could fill a bomb shelter adequately in a post-apocalyptic world.

"I'm scared about what message we are telling our kids when faced with a threat. Instead of reason, rationality, open-mindedness and altruism, we are telling them to panic, be fearful, suspicious, reactionary and self-interested."

Australia was one of the first countries in the world to experience fear-based stockpiling of toilet paper and water.

By the end of last week, rice, pasta, soap and medicines were also flying off supermarket shelves. Videos of Aussies fighting over toilet paper were shown around the world.

Psychologists broadly called the phenomenon, which has now gathered pace in the US and UK, a case of FOMO (fear of missing out).

Australian Medical Association president Dr Tony Bartone had a different description. He called the act of stockpiling "irresponsible hysteria".

While others plundered shelves, the frail, elderly and poor were inevitably missing out, Dr Bartone told nine.com.au.

"Everyone has a need for toilet paper. We don't have a need for a warehouse full of toilet paper," he said.

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"The most vulnerable are the ones left to fend for themselves in queues and supermarkets for rapidly disappearing essential items."

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He called on people driven by fear and out there prepping to "act responsibly".

Dr Bartone said the comradery of Australians during the summer's deadly bushfire crisis had been heart-warming.

"Now we are seeing some very frightened and misinformed behaviour," he said.

A Red Cross spokesperson told nine.com.au the charity was encouraging Australians to heed the advice of government and medical professionals, and to not stockpile goods.

Major supermarkets Coles and Woolworths have been forced to change strategies the past week, surprised by the buying patterns of some customers.

Initially both retailers imposed limits of four toilet paper packs per person, despite initially saying there would be no restrictions.

Then, over the weekend, with shelves continuing to be hammered and queues of people waiting for stores to open each morning, a new limit of one per customer was imposed.

Protective face masks have been in short supply in Australia for months, since wildfires caused some of the worst air pollution in the world over the summer.

https://www.facebook.com/abdu.sharkawy/posts/2809958409125474

Dr Sharkawy's post, shared more than one million times on Facebook, addressed face masks theft from hospitals in the US, as panic surrounding the spread of COVID-19 increases.

"The N95 masks that are stolen from hospitals and urgent care clinics ... are actually needed for front line healthcare providers and instead are being donned in airports, malls, and coffee lounges, perpetuating even more fear and suspicion of others," he wrote.

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Covid-19 is nowhere near over, Dr Sharkawy continued.

"It will be coming to a city, a hospital, a friend, even a family member near you at some point. Expect it," he said.

"The fact is the virus itself will not likely do much harm when it arrives. But our own behaviours and 'fight for yourself above all else' attitude could prove disastrous."

He urged people to show compassion for others.

"I implore you all. Temper fear with reason, panic with patience and uncertainty with education," he said.

Three Australians have died from the virus, with new cases confirmed in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia today.

There are more than 70 confirmed cases in Australia. The number of people infected worldwide has surpassed 100,000.

Source: 9News https://www.9news.com.au/national/abdu-sharkawy-stockpiling-toilet-rolls-essentials-hurts-most-vulnerable/ea6b6ca1-3bdd-4764-9541-dc3d3bf8c5f9

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