COVID-19 supplies fly off the shelves across the city

One emergency preparedness store says people should focus on other types of emergency kits

A Superstore on Marine Drive is sold out of face masks. Jessica A. Froud photo
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By Jessica A. Froud

Vancouverites are rushing out to buy COVID-19 emergency supplies — much more than earthquakes kits despite being the high ongoing risk of the “big one” hitting the West Coast. 

Businesses across Metro Vancouver have been sold out of surgical face masks, hand sanitizer and rubbing alcohol for weeks. Many don’t have a date for when they will be back in stock. 

Natural disaster kits shouldn’t be ignored

Cheryl Petkau, owner of Krasicki & Ward, an emergency preparedness store in Vancouver, said emergencies like earthquakes should be the focus. These days, products that customers believe will help them fight off COVID-19 are in high demand.

“We will be bringing in boxes of masks from the back door and people will be waiting for us saying they will buy them all,” Petkau said. “Once COVID-19 is finished it will have taken out about half a dozen people. But if an earthquake hits, it will be a heck of a lot more people than that.”

As of publication, B.C. has 46 confirmed COVID-19 cases, and one death, according to Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer. 

According to PreparedBC, there is a one in three chance of a damaging earthquake occurring within the province over the next 50 years.

Shopping out of panic

Steven Taylor, an expert in the psychology of  pandemics at UBC, said people shouldn’t buy items because they think they have to.

“The risk of earthquakes in Vancouver is fairly low in comparison to getting COVID-19,” Taylor said. “It will be a self-fulfilling prophecy if the stores run out of inventory and I believe most already have. The worst thing we can do right now is act out of panic.”

COVID-19 fears influence buying habits

Isabel Wood, a staff worker at Krasicki & Ward, said people purchase items based on current concerns.

“People tend to put earthquake fears on the back burner because it isn’t in the news as much as things like COVID-19,” Wood said. “When there was an earthquake in Haida Gwaii, we were running out of earthquake kits because it was on people’s minds.”

First-year professional photography student Sarah Flemming said her family has been trying to find hand sanitizers with no success. 

“My mom was trying to find hand sanitizer here in Vancouver but it was totally sold out,” Flemming said.  “Our family went to Victoria over the weekend and couldn’t find any there either.”

 

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