Image of empty toilet paper aisle at Woolworths supermarket at the Watergardens Shopping Centre in Taylors Lakes. The photograph was taken by Natalia Rios on 4th March 2020 during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

On the day she took this photograph, Natalia visited the supermarket around 7:00 pm in the evening with her family. She was hoping to find some pantry staples such as UHT milk, pasta, rice and at least a few rolls of toilet paper. Unfortunately there was no toilet paper left for her to buy.

Natalia's shopping trip took place at a time when Australians were panic buying essential items - and in particular toilet paper - in response to fear and uncertainty about the COVID-19 pandemic. The panic buying blitz led to widespread stock shortages, leaving many consumers without household staples for several months, and manufacturers and distributers working around the clock to keep up with demand. Panic buying didn't just happen in Australia. In countries in Asia and Europe, and also the USA, consumers also stockpiled toilet paper and other products.

The panic buying had become so extreme in Australia by early March that supermarkets around the nation had to resort to introducing strict limits on products in high demand. Natalia's photograph was taken on the day that Woolworths introduced a 4 pack limit on toilet paper, although the restriction clearly failed to curb the shortages. The limit was reduced to 1 pack per customer about a week later and this toilet paper limit remained in place for about 2 months, until the start of May.

Natalia remembers that "As the photo was taken in the evening, it was a far cry from the morning sessions when there was panic... just an eerie sense of 'calm before the storm', and just an air of disappointment for the supermarket having no stock of TP left."

Natalia noted that her shopping trip on this day was about 2 weeks before social distancing measures were introduced to the supermarket chain. Victoria was yet to announce its State of Emergency - this was declared on 16th March - and Stage 1 COVID restrictions did not begin until 23rd March.

Description of Content

Completely empty toilet paper shelving at supermarket. There is a toilet paper sign hanging at top left.

Physical Description

Digital colour photograph.

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