Empty shelves due to coronavirus: Legit panic or sheer hysteria?

Pavel Palamarchuk/Sputnik
Amidst the coronavirus outbreak, Russians fight over whether they should stock up or calm down.

Photos like this have recently popped on social networks. Authors say they see unusually empty shelves in grocery stores in Moscow and other cities, as the coronavirus outbreak continues.

Some goods are indeed harder to come by in stores recently. Shelves previously filled with buckwheat, rice, pasta and noodles, flour, and toilet paper sometimes look deserted.

Some Moscow residents posted the following pictures on Instagram:

"Empty shelves in the @pyaterochka_official store on Presnya. Do you think there are real shortages of food or are people panicking in vain?" one user wrote.

[Today, the situation in stores in the capital is quite deplorable. You snooze, you lose. People grab everything: grains, pasta, flour, etc. in sufficient quantities and, as a result, you come to the store to buy something as a garnish and find empty shelves instead. Mostly, these are pensioners shopping.]

[I passed by a store yesterday to buy some food and things and to see if the rumours about empty shelves are legit and I saw this.]

[I really see something like this for the first time: In Auchan (a French hypermarket chain in Russia) half of the shelves are empty. Cereals, pasta, meat, and wet wipes disappeared. What’s going on?]

A mother of three from Moscow wrote on Instagram that she did not think there are real shortages of food and other products in Russian stores, yet she believed that she better to play safe and replenish her supplies, as she is afraid that the shortages may worsen if more people give in to the mass hysteria.

View this post on Instagram

Славик, не очкуй🤜 ⠀ Или в какой группе ты: 1️⃣группа: нет паники, все это лишь раздули! 🤦🏼‍♀️ 2️⃣ группа: Боже, все пропало! 🧟‍♀️Паника, Истерика, Апокалипсис. Гредет первобытнообщинный строй 3️⃣ группа: я не паникую🦹‍♀️, но полАшана все таки прикуплю ⠀ Как вы поняла, я отношу себя к 3️⃣тьей группе. Это какой-то «капец» ( мне просто по этикету не положено такие фразы говорить), но 3️⃣ое детей, которые дома постоянно и кушают нон-стоп даже полАшана не спасёт. ⠀ Решила вести дневник📔, как проходит жизнь в изоляции многодетной👧🏻🧒🏼👶🏻семьи. Поехали ▶️день 1. Вернее он 2, но я только сегодня поняла все реали. Когда сестра из Казахстана сказала, что у них город закрыли и все компании приостановились. ⠀ А ещё пугают, что закроют метро 🚇, закроют Москву до МКАДА и выйти из дома будет штраф от 200 💶. ⠀ Остановите Землю 🌏, я сойду ⠀ П.С. Гречку все таки я нашла под вечер #дневник #1день #многодетнаясемья #короновирусмосква #гречка #всекушаюттолькогречку #туалетнаябумагаважнеегречки #ашан #москва #россия #2020 #короновирус

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Officials are doing their best to reassure people that there won’t be shortages of food and other products in stores throughout the country. President Putin assured that there is no need to panic and that the supply to stores is as stable as always. 

The government says it is conducting round-the-clock monitoring of availability of goods in stores and their prices. 

Nonetheless, not everyone is comforted by these efforts and the reassuring messages from officials. 

One user from Novosibirsk said she regretted her decision to listen to the reassuring messages and not to buy necessary products in time:

View this post on Instagram

И где товар? Только вчера заявили, что всё есть, склады забиты. Ничего не скупайте И где тогда продукты? Это магазин Мария-Ра в Новосибирске. Их у нас много, целая сеть. Товар алтайский. Не импортный. Я не скупаю,, мне эта гречка безразлична. Но элементарно сахар и соль. Консервации тоже нет. Хорошо, макароны купила неделю назад для дачи. Остались несколько пачек кускового сахара - мне такой не нужен. И соль ийодированная. Мелкая. Гадость редкостная. Спросила у завмага, когда сахар весовой и соль коупную привезут. Она говорит, а я откуда знаю. Может через две недели, может через месяц. Я каждую весну покупаю продукты на дачу. Через десять дней уже едем. Зашла в два магазина другой сети - такая же история. Словом, пришла злая на себя, что поверила чиновникам.😱🙄🙄🙄 Знала же, что нельзя верить.🤪 А потом все удивляются, почему люди скупают. Давно бы уже купила. На даче магазинов мало и откроются непонятно когда. И будет ли в них что. А у вас как дела с долгоиграющим и продуктами в магазинах? #гдепродукты#вируснаяпаника#коронавирус#пустыеполки#вранье

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[Where are all the goods? Yesterday they said warehouses were full and we should refrain from buying anything for future use. This is one of the many stores of the ‘Maria-Ra’ chain in Novosibirsk. All the goods are locally produced in Altai and not imported. I didn’t buy anything — I don’t care about buckwheat. But what about basic products, such as sugar and salt? There are no pickled vegetables either. Thankfully I bought some pasta a week ago…]

In St. Petersburg, people noticed customers who were buying large quantities of goods while wearing protective masks. It is not clear if this behavior was a joke or if it was genuine. 

[People are going mad.]

While some grocery chains send reassuring messages to people saying they have nothing to worry about, other businesses have seen an opportunity. For example, Auchan is offering  already loaded shopping cart “packages” with a range of first necessity goods — grains, toilet paper, buckwheat, pasta, wet wipes, etc. — for a fixed sum (ca. $44).

The Pyatorochka supermarket chain, meanwhile, posted a reassuring message on its Instagram page. It reads: “We make sure you are always able to buy goods you need in our stores. To do this, we have increased the volume of supply and the frequency of replenishment. We would like to ask you for your understanding and not to worry. [Refilling the shelves these days] just takes a little more effort from our employees and it may take longer.

Our manufacturers are delivering goods on time and we have sufficient stock in our warehouses to meet all your needs for fresh and quality goods. If there are not enough products on the shelves in the store, do not worry — tomorrow they will be replenished with a new delivery from the warehouse. We ask you to soberly assess your real needs to resupply.”

What do you think Russians should do: do not believe anyone and stock up or calm down and hope the officials have everything under control?

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