For the Sake of Frontline Workers DO NOT Bulk Buy — Here’s Why

Whether its medical supplies such as masks, disposable gloves, and hand sanitiser, or essential items such as food, toilet paper, and other sanitary goods, the world’s reaction in the early days of the global COVID-19 crisis was to bulk buy. Naturally, this has left supermarkets and local stores struggling to meet demand, with empty shelves a common sight for shoppers around the world. Panic buying has become ubiquitous, and Australian citizens are also complicit.

At the time of writing, Australia has 5,550 confirmed cases and has witnessed 30 deaths, however, with lockdown restrictions predicted to continue for weeks, and with the Australian Government still to release its modelling data, the potential for bulk buying to wreak havoc on what is available in stores remains very real.

The fact is, it is highly unlikely that supply chains will be unable to keep up with demand, and many businesses are ramping up distribution to ensure that shops have everything people need. However, shortages within stores themselves are having a serious impact on our frontline workers, those who have less time and greater need in such a crisis.

Frontline Workers are Often Last in Line

As infections in Australia continue to rise, our healthcare professionals are working longer hours in more demanding environments, subsequently having less time to look after their own health and that of their families. Much like the elderly, frontline workers are often last in line, simply due to the fact that they have fewer opportunities to get to the stores to buy essentials.


In the UK, one nurse’s impassioned plea for people to stop bulk buying has gone viral, however, the problem continues, and while supermarkets are introducing limits on what individuals can buy at any one time, shelves are still empty at the end of the day. This is leaving frontline workers without the essentials supplies they need after long and challenging shifts, further compounding the psychological impact that this crisis is making on those who are tasked with dealing with it.

Medical Supplies are Needed in Hospitals

 When it comes to stockpiling masks, disposable gloves, and other medical supplies, the problem is significantly worse. These items are in short supply around the world and, as highlighted in one story where American buyers “hijacked” a shipment of masks heading to France, competition for necessary equipment is high.

 The latest guidelines from the Department of Health state that “most people will not benefit from wearing a surgical mask” and that “masks are of benefit to people who are sick so they don’t cough on others, and health care workers who have frequent, close contact with sick people.” Until this guidance changes, there can be little excuse for stockpiling masks and reducing the numbers available to those who need them most.

Gloves and hand sanitiser are also subject to significant demand from essential workers. One cancer clinic has been forced to make its own hand sanitiser, while gloves and sanitiser are also required within other industries such as the food and retail sectors in order to mitigate the spread of the virus. Stockpiling these items will mean shortages in the areas where they are necessary, not only to keep workers on the frontline safe, but also the general public who interact with them on a regular basis.

The simple truth is that by panic buying, bulk buying, or stockpiling either food and other essentials or vital medical supplies and PPE, individuals significantly reduce frontline worker’s capacity to help those in need. It is vital that these people have access to these items, and everyone can help ensure this is the case.

If for no other reason than to ensure essential services can continue running optimally during this crisis, individuals and families should only buy what they need and keep faith in supply chains to ensure there is enough to go around. Additionally, using online ordering services wherever possible will ensure supermarkets and other distributors can more easily keep up with demand.

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