Toilet paper panic: Fear, fights and memes spreading faster than coronavirus

If post-apocalyptic movies get one thing right, it’s this: you don’t see anyone using toilet paper after the end of the world.

The world isn’t ending, but some people are shopping like it is amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. Face masks, hand sanitizer and canned food have been flying off the shelves, but perhaps the wildest panic seems to surround toilet paper.

Many store shelves across Canada and the United States have been stripped bare of TP, as though it will soon be worth its weight in gold.

Toilet paper offers no special protection against COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that has infected more than 115,000 people and killed more than 4,000 worldwide. The best way to avoid it is to wash your hands often, according to the World Health Organization. The WHO’s guidelines don’t say anything about toilet paper.

Nevertheless, people are trying to cover their behinds by scooping up as much two-ply as possible, if only because everyone else is doing it.

“Special danger needs special precautions,” said psychologist Steven Taylor, author of The Psychology of Pandemics and a professor at the University of British Columbia.

“When people are told something dangerous is coming, but all you need to do is wash your hands, the action doesn’t seem proportionate to the threat,” Taylor told CNN. He added that people naturally start to panic-buy when they think something is scarce, and photos on social media can easily fuel that panic.

“When you see someone in the store, panic buying, that can cause a fear contagion effect,” he said.

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