customers stand by empty supermarket shelves
(Image: AAP/James Gourley)

The US has recorded more than 2 million cases of coronavirus (and rising), but officials say the actual number of infections is likely much higher. Across the pond, anarchy rules in the UK. And at home, the panic buying returns.

US surge continues

While no one can doubt the seriousness of several consecutive days of double-figure new caseloads in Victoria, a glance around the world tells us just how much worse it could be.

The US is the site of the largest outbreak in the world, with at least 2.3 million infections and more than 120,000 dead. And it’s getting worse.

Numbers have been rising across 29 states — it’s particularly bad in the country’s south and west. On Wednesday alone, 36,880 new infections were reported — the highest single day total for the us so far.

But that figure of 2 million cases? That only accounts for confirmed cases.

“Our best estimate right now is that for every case that was reported, there actually were 10 other infections,” Center for Disease Control director Dr Robert Redfield has told reporters.

Yep, the actual number of cases could be as high as 20 million.

Panic buying again?

Coles and Woolworths have placed temporary limits on certain items, as “elevated demand” follows a virus case spike in Victoria.

Woolworths reinstated a purchase limit of two items on toilet paper, hand sanitiser, paper towel, flour, sugar, pasta, mince, long-life milk, eggs and rice across its Victorian stores, while Coles put out a handy table listing the limitations

Woolworths called the measure a “preventative move” in response to “significantly elevated demand seen over the past 24 hours in certain parts of Melbourne”, while Coles Group CEO Steven Cain, not mentioning any spike, said the move had been undertaken “following discussion with the federal and Victorian governments as well as other retailers”.

So where is this “panic shopping” occurring? The Herald Sun report contains four photos — one from Twitter of a largely empty toilet paper shelf in Geelong and a full shopping trolley the in Keilor Downs Shopping Centre car park (plus another picture of people buying in bulk from Costco, which, given that’s its entire purpose, might not be evidence of anything much).

In NSW, The Sydney Morning Herald also reports shortages in suburban Sydney supermarkets, prompting Premier Gladys Berejiklian to ask people to remain calm.

We asked Coles and Woolworths which stores were being targeted, but Woolworths declined to share that information and Coles didn’t get back to us at all.

Anarchy in the UK

And it seems the UK population is showing the same determination to live as though the virus has passed as we’ve seen in the US. The New York Times reports that at least 22 police officers were injured in London this week as they attempted to disperse crowds that had gathered for an outdoor party, despite ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.

And if you think a global pandemic is going to get between an Englishman and his allotted bi-annual sunny day at the sea side, you’ve got another thing coming: pictures emerged yesterday of the beach at the coastal town of Bournemouth, utterly crammed with people as the temperature skyrocketed to a genuinely toasty 33 degrees.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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