‘Don’t panic, don’t panic!’

Cool heads are always needed in a crisis.

Some people are naturals at standing back, breathing deeply, taking a few seconds to assess the situation and then coming up with a wise plan of action.

Many others find it hard to quickly prioritise what needs to be done, feeling their heads fill with all sorts of competing ideas that have them running hither and thither, and that overwhelm any sense of thinking rationally.

The hapless Spanish waiter Manuel in Fawlty Towers comes to mind, dithering madly when under pressure and literally not knowing whether to go this way, or that. The doddery Lance Corporal Jones from Dad’s Army is another good example.

In fact, the ghost of Corporal Jones can be found in the aisles of most supermarkets at the moment, as it has slowly dawned on shoppers that the Omicron variant of Covid-19 is here and spreading, and particularly since the Government moved the country to the Red setting of its traffic-light alert system.

"Don’t panic, don’t panic!" he cries, as he rushes hither and thither, trying to appear in control of the situation.

Of course, none of us are in control of the situation. That is what can make things frightening for some and that is probably why they seek assurance and comfort in what they can control — in this case, what they buy at the supermarket.

Which brings us to the phenomenon of panic buying, specifically those items which disappear from the shelves almost as soon as they have been replenished.

Corporal Jones was from a generation that never had the opportunity to really appreciate using soft, white, mega-long, three-ply toilet rolls with "subtle quilting" to provide a velvety feel and a luxurious experience.

Instead, there was a hook on the door of the outside toilet with squares of cut-up newspaper or other rough paper to be used in what was definitely not a luxurious experience.

It is a good thing to do what you need to do for your family and household to ride out the Omicron wave. But panic-buying is something else.

In fact, the panicking over supplies of toilet paper is one of the more ludicrous aspects of the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly as an upset stomach does not appear to be one of the most common symptoms.

Hurray for Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Grant Robertson who at the weekend stated the obvious, for those who need such guidance, that there is no need for anyone to panic buy, given supermarkets are not going to be closed.

‘‘Planning and preparing is a good thing, but needing to buy three trolley-loads of toilet paper is not,’’ Mr Robertson said.

Other items are also becoming harder to get. Tinned foods, baked beans especially (which may explain the rush on toilet paper), flour and yeast, cat food, Panadol, and bottled water.

Most of these are sensible additions to the pantry, although the apparent need to stock up on bottled water in a Covid-19 pandemic is somewhat surprising, unless they are expecting the virus to affect the water coming through their taps or are instead sensibly preparing for the next natural disaster.

As we have seen overseas, especially in Australia in recent weeks, there will inevitably be supply-chain issues of some kind or another here as Omicron runs rampant.

The sheer number of people having to isolate because they are either sick, or close contacts of those who are, is bound to have an impact on deliveries of goods and on services. This may be because wholesale warehouse staff, drivers and/or supermarket employees are all away at the same time.

Mr Robertson assures New Zealanders there is a lot of business continuity planning under way and that officials are "working hard" to come up with ways of minimising any such disruption.

We can all do our bit to help by shopping cautiously, and not piling hundreds of toilet rolls into the bathroom cupboard.

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