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Leaders Respond to Panic Buying: “The World Is Not Coming to an End”

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  • Many stores around the world have seen an increase in “panic buying” as the novel coronavirus spreads.
  • Experts say people are panic buying to try to gain some sense of control over a virus that has never been seen before, but it only worsens as more and more people do it, creating a fear contagion effect. 
  • The phenomenon has created challenges for retailers as well as vulnerable populations that can’t access the supplies they need due to shortages.
  • President Trump, among other leaders, has encouraged people to stop buying and hoarding mass amounts of products.

Panic Buying Worsens

As the COVID-19 pandemic worsens in many places across the globe, so has public fear and erratic behavior. This alarm can perhaps most blatantly be seen in the masses of people who are “panic buying” — purchasing unusually large amounts of supplies in anticipation or in the wake of some kind of disaster.

Images and footage of stores across social media are reminiscent of Black Friday rampages, but with a more sinister feel. Shelves are completely cleared and crowds can be seen flooding aisles and checkout lines, sometimes with a hostile approach.

There have even been reports that some of these panic buying sprees are resulting in violence as tensions and anxiety among consumers rise.

Worries about the wellbeing of store employees have surfaced as these situations escalate. A group of Britain’s leading supermarkets including Tesco, Aldi, and M&S signed and released a letter pleading customers to stop their panic buying.

“We thank all our colleagues in stores and supply chains who are working day and night to keep the nation fed. But we need your help too. We would ask everyone to be considerate in the way they shop,” the letter read.

Others have also expressed concerns about high-need populations that can’t access supplies they usually need because of the shortages.

To combat panic buying, many chain stores have started limiting the amount of certain items that customers can purchase. 

Psychology Behind Panic Buying

So, as the panic buying chaos unfolds in supermarkets both in the U.S. and elsewhere, some are trying to get to the bottom of why exactly this is happening. 

Experts explain that stocking up on supplies is how many are coping with their concerns over the pandemic. 

“It’s about ‘taking back control’ in a world where you feel out of control,” Paul Marsden, a consumer psychologist at the University of the Arts London, told CNBC

The novel coronavirus is extra daunting as it has never been seen before, and this detail is contributing to the floods of panic buyers. 

“In other disaster conditions like a flood, we can prepare because we know how many supplies we need, but we have a virus now we know nothing about,” Dimitrios Tsivrikos, a lecturer in consumer and business psychology at University College London, told CNBC. 

Psychology experts are also saying that panic buying has a spiraling effect; once some do it, others quickly begin to follow suit. 

“People, being social creatures, we look to each other for cues for what is safe and what is dangerous,” clinical psychologist Steven Taylor told CNN. “And when you see someone in the store, panic buying, that can cause a fear contagion effect.”

These matters have been made worse by conflicting messages from officials, such as President Donald Trump initially downplaying the virus and then declaring a national emergency in the United States. 

Brothers Tried Capitalizing Off the Buying Panic

Some people have tried to make a profit off the panic buying craze, buying and then reselling highly-desired items at a spiked price. One case, in particular, has stood out: two Tennessee brothers who stockpiled over 17,000 bottles of hand sanitizer.

Matt Colvin makes his living as an Amazon seller and managed to sell several hundreds of hand sanitizer bottles at a markup price before the company removed his posts and warned that he could face consequences for price gouging. The stakes in Tennessee are higher than usual after Gov. Bill Lee declared a state of emergency on March 12, and the Tennessee attorney’s general office opened an investigation into the legality of Colvin and his brother’s sales over the weekend.  

Initially Colvin didn’t seem to express remorse for his actions, despite the growing health crisis.

After The New York Times published an article about Colvin’s latest endeavors, he received an influx of hate and even some threats. Colvin said he and his brother, Noah, were unaware of the extent that the shortages would reach when they originally purchased the mass volume of hand sanitizer. The brothers also stockpiled on other cleaning supplies.

“I’ve been buying and selling things for 10 years now,” Matt Colvin told The New York Times. “There’s been hot product after hot product. But the thing is, there’s always another one on the shelf. When we did this trip, I had no idea that these stores wouldn’t be able to get replenished.” 

“It was never my intention to keep necessary medical supplies out of the hands of people who needed them,” he told the Times, reportedly crying. “That’s not who I am as a person.”

Ultimately, on Sunday, the Colvin brothers ended up donating the remainder of their supplies to be distributed among those who need them in Tennessee and Kentucky.

Leaders Condemn Panic Buying

In the midst of all this heightened consumer anxiety and its consequences, several prominent leaders have spoken out to request that people stop panic buying. 

City heads, like Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, spoke out to discourage hoarding food and clearing out grocery stores. 

“The world is not coming to an end. But if it is all that bottle water and toilet paper you are buying will not get used,” Turner tweeted.

“No need to hoard excess items. There is no food shortage and stores will restock. No need to purchase bottled water.LADWP water is clean and safe,” Garcetti said.

The Los Angeles Police Department reiterated the message of the mayor.

On Sunday, President Trump had a phone conversation with food industry heads to discuss how they’re managing the issue. Hours after this call, Trump addressed the people of the United States as a whole at a news conference, telling them to “just relax” and reduce their bulk purchases from retailers. 

“The folks that we spoke to, they’ve done a fantastic job. They’re going to meet the needs of the public, they’re going round-the-clock if they have to, and they’re committed to the communities where they’re serving,” he said.

“And they’re buying a lot of additional things to sell but again they asked me to say, could you buy a little bit less please?” Trump said.

See what others are saying: (Reuters) (BBC) (CNBC)

International

Russia Takes Over 900 Azovstal Fighters Prisoner as Mariupol Surrenders

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Ukraine said the soldiers successfully completed their mission, but the fall of Mariupol represents a strategic win for Putin.


Azovstal Waves the White Flag

Russia’s foreign ministry announced on Wednesday that it had captured 959 Ukrainians from the Azovstal steelworks, where besieged soldiers have maintained the last pocket of resistance in Mariupol for weeks.

A ministry spokesperson said in a statement that 51 were being treated for injuries, and the rest were sent to a former prison colony in the town of Olenivka in a Russian-controlled area of Donetsk.

The defense ministry released videos of what it claimed were Ukrainian fighters receiving care at a hospital in the Russian-controlled town of Novoazovsk. In one, a soldier tells the camera he is being treated “normally” and that he is not being psychologically pressured, though it is unclear whether he is speaking freely.

It was unclear if any Ukrainians remained in Azovstal, but Denis Pushilin, the head of the self-proclaimed republic of Donetsk, said in a statement Wednesday that the “commanders of the highest level” were still hiding in the plant.

Previously, estimates put the number of soldiers inside Azovstal around 1,000.

Ukraine officially gave up Mariupol on Monday, when the first Azovstal fighters began surrendering.

Reuters filmed dozens of wounded Ukrainians being driven away in buses marked with the Russian pro-war “Z” symbol.

Ukraine’s deputy defense minister said in a Tuesday statement that the Ukrainian prisoners would be swapped in an exchange for captured Russians. But numerous Russian officials have signaled that the Ukrainian soldiers should be tried.

Mariupol Falls into Russian Hands

After nearly three months of bombardment that left Mariupol in ruins, Russia’s combat mission in the city has ended.

The sprawling complex of underground tunnels, caverns, and bunkers beneath Azovstal provided a defensible position for the Ukrainians there, and they came to represent the country’s resolve in the face of Russian aggression for many spectators.

Earlier this month, women, children, and the elderly were evacuated from the plant.

The definitive capture of Mariupol, a strategic port city, is a loss for Ukraine and a boon for Russia, which can now establish a land bridge between Crimea and parts of Eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian separatists. The development could also free up Russian troops around Mariupol to advance on the East, while additional reinforcements near Kharkiv descend from the north, potentially cutting off Ukrainian forces from the rest of the country.

The Ukrainian military has framed events in Mariupol as at least a partial success, arguing that the defenders of Azovstal completed their mission by tying down Russian troops and resources in the city and giving Ukrainians elsewhere more breathing room.

It claimed that doing so prevented Russia from rapidly capturing the city of Zaporizhzhia further to the west.

See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (BBC) (BBC)

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Convoy of Up to 1,000 Vehicles Evacuates Refugees From Mariupol as Russian War Effort Stalls

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Russia may have lost a third of its ground invasion force since the war began, according to British military intelligence.


Hundreds Make It Out Alive

A convoy of between 500 and 1,000 vehicles evacuating refugees from the southern port city of Mariupol arrived safely in the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia on Saturday.

People have been trickling out of Mariupol for over two months, but the recent evacuation was the single biggest out of the city thus far. Russian troops, who control most of the city, did not allow the convoy to leave for days, but eventually, they relented.

The convoy first traveled to Berbyansky some 80 kilometers to the west, then stopped at other settlements before driving 200 kilometers northwest to Zaporizhzhia. Many refugees told reporters they took “secret detours” to avoid Russian checkpoints and feared every moment of the journey.

Nikolai Pavlov, a 74-year-old retiree, told Reuters he had lived in a basement for a month after his apartment was destroyed.

“We barely made it,” he said. “There were lots of elderly people among us… the trip was devastating. But it was worth it.”

63-year-old Iryna Petrenko also said she had stayed in Mariupol initially to take care of her 92-year-old mother, who subsequently died.

“We buried her next to her house, because there was nowhere to bury anyone,” she said.

Putin’s Plans Go Poorly

In Mariupol, Ukrainian fighters continue to hold the Azovstal steelworks, the only part of the city still under Ukrainian control.

On Sunday, a video emerged appearing to show a hail of projectiles bursting into white, brightly burning munitions over the factory.

The pro-Russian separatist who posted it on Telegram wrote, “If you didn’t know what it is and for what purpose – you could say that it’s even beautiful.”

Turkey is trying to negotiate an evacuation of wounded Ukrainians from the factory, but neither Russia nor Ukraine have agreed to any plan.

After nearly three months of war, Mariupol has been left in ruins, with thousands of civilians reportedly dead.

“In less than 3 month, Mariupol, one of Ukraine’s fastest developing & comfortable cities, was reduced into a heap of charred ruins smelling death, with thousands of people standing in long breadlines and selling their properties out to buy some food. Less than three months,” Illia Ponomarenko, a reporter for The Kyiv Independent, tweeted.

On Sunday, the United Kingdom’s defense ministry estimated that Russia has likely lost a third of its ground invasion forces since the war began.

Moscow is believed to have deployed as many as 150,000 troops in Ukraine.

The ministry added that Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine have “lost momentum” and are “significantly behind schedule.” Moreover, it said Russia failed to achieve substantial territorial gains over the last month while sustaining “consistently high levels of attrition.”

“Under the current conditions, Russia is unlikely to dramatically accelerate its rate of advance over the next 30 days,” the ministry concluded.

Sweden also signaled on Sunday that it will join Finland in applying for NATO membership.

See what others are saying: (The Daily Beast) (U.S. News and World Report) (The Hill)

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Israel Moves to Build Over 4,000 West Bank Settlements as Palestinian Homes Demolished

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The Israeli military is proceeding with a plan to evict at least 1,000 Palestinians from the West Bank.


Settlers Get Ready to Move in

On Thursday, a military planning body in the Israeli-occupied West Bank approved the construction of 4,427 housing units, according to the watchdog group Peace Now.

“The State of Israel took another stumble toward the abyss and further deepened the occupation,” Hagit Ofran, an expert at Peace Now, said via the Associated Press.

The plan is the largest advancement of settlement projects since President Joe Biden took office in the United States.

The U.S. opposes settlement expansion and said as much when the plan was first announced last week, but critics say Washington has done little to pressure Israel to stop.

In a statement, U.N. Mideast envoy Tor Wennesland called the settlements a “major obstacle to peace.”

“Continued settlement expansion further entrenches the occupation, encroaches upon Palestinian land and natural resources, and hampers the free movement of the Palestinian population,” he said.

In October, Israel approved some 3,000 settlement homes despite a U.S. rebuke. There are currently over 130 Israeli settlements in the West Bank harboring almost 500,000 settlers, in addition to the nearly three million Palestinians living in the territory.

Palestinians Pushed Off Their Land

On Wednesday, the same day Israeli soldiers allegedly shot and killed Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, the military demolished at least 18 buildings in the West Bank, including 12 residential ones.

Israel’s supreme court has also ruled that eight Palestinian hamlets can be expelled, potentially leaving at least 1,000 Palestinians homeless.

The area targeted is known as the Masafer Yatta, and its residents say they have been herding animals and practicing traditional desert agriculture there for decades, long before Israel took over the West Bank in 1967. Israel, however, claims there were no permanent structures there before the military designated it a firing zone in the 1980s

“What’s happening now is ethnic cleansing,” Sami Huraini, an activist and a resident of the area, told the Associated Press. “The people are staying on their land and have already started to rebuild.”

See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (Peace Now) (Associated Press)

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