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This article was published 3/3/2020 (363 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Though there have been no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Manitoba yet, big-box stores across Winnipeg are seeing their shelves emptied by shoppers stocking up on toilet paper, bottled water, hand sanitizer, face masks and canned goods.

While most shoppers aren’t ready to panic just yet, reports of dwindling resources in other parts of the country have motivated some to stockpile basic goods before supplies run out.

Stacie Faucher and her mother-in-law managed to secure seven bulk packs of toilet paper between them while shopping at the McGillivray Boulevard Costco Tuesday. Faucher has children, and her mother lives in a rural area, so they wanted to be prepared for the worst.

"It's basically just a matter of comfort," Faucher said.

"Rather than getting to a point where we don't have enough, might as well stock up. It doesn't hurt. It's not going to go bad; toilet paper is never going bad."

Lorraine Clowes was at Costco because Purex toilet paper was on sale, but by the time she arrived it was all gone. She was surprised to find pallet upon pallet of bottled water nearby, more than she had ever seen in the warehouse before.

In the United States, panic over COVID-19 has led to empty shelves and skyrocketing online purchase prices for sanitizing products.

Sales of hand sanitizers in the U.S. were up 73 per cent in the four weeks ending Feb. 22, compared to the same period a year ago, according to market research firm Nielsen.

Walmart has seen higher demand for cleaning supplies and other items, similar to when shoppers start preparing for a hurricane, and says it is working with suppliers to stock up again on those items, including hand sanitizer.

Hospitals are worried about a shortage of face masks, which have also disappeared from shelves despite repeated declarations from health officials that healthy people don't need to use them.

More than 90,000 cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed around the world and the number of deaths has now passed 3,100. The virus emerged in China but has spread across the globe and reached at least 70 countries, including 30 recorded cases so far in Canada, two-thirds of them in Ontario.

In Winnipeg, however, some residents don't seem especially concerned.

Scott Primrose, a retired medical microbiologist, said his Superstore shopping cart was less full than usual Tuesday.

"I'm not stocking up," he said. "The coronavirus is special and nobody knows what it will do; that's the reason they're all upset."

From his own observations, Primrose said he sees COVID-19 on the same level as other colds and flus, and not a cause for real concern, except among people whose immune systems are already at risk.

"I'm not worried," he said with a chuckle. "If you're immuno-compromised, you should be worried about everything."



Julia-Simone Rutgers

Julia-Simone Rutgers

Julia-Simone Rutgers is a general-assignment reporter.

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