As for the impact on people's everyday lives, like Japan, there were shortages of toilet paper for a while in Australia. Recently, it has finally become more readily available in supermarkets, but it is slightly more expensive. There have been many other things besides toilet paper that have been sold out or in short supply. There have been shortages of grocery items like flour, pasta, rice, and a little later on, canned tomato, so some supermarkets began limiting them to two per person. There have also been shortages in things other than food, like hand sanitizer (disinfectant gel), disposable rubber gloves, and soap. When there were fights over toilet paper, I thought about the other things it would be inconvenient not to have. Light bulbs and batteries are both made in China, and I thought that only at a time like this it would be a problem if there were no more light bulbs and I bought just one extra, but they didn’t run out of light bulbs or batteries. Voluntarily not going out means people have tended not to do enough exercise, and fitness gyms have been closed, so apparently there have been shortages of gym equipment like weights and skipping ropes. I saw recently on the TV news a heading "Are bikes the next toilet paper!?" It seems there have been shortages of bicycles. Bikes let you exercise while sticking to social distancing, so it looks as though the number of people who are ready to buy a bike at this time has been increasing. Some supermarkets have security guards at the entrance to limit the number of people and prevent the spread of infection. They have measures such as waiting in intervals with stickers on the floor to show where to line up when you’re waiting at the cash register. The other day I went to a general practitioner (called a GP in Australia) to get a referral from the doctor, which you need to see a specialist. When I was making the appointment, they asked if I had a fever and if I had any cold or other symptoms. Then at the reception desk they asked if I had a mask with me and said that if I didn't have one to either use a cloth to cover myself or to go and buy a mask at the pharmacy next door, otherwise I wouldn’t be allowed to see the doctor. I think it’s fair to say that in Japan people always wear masks when going to a clinic or hospital, but in Australia, there is no custom of wearing masks, so very few of the people who came to the GP’s clinic while I was waiting were wearing a mask. I had carelessly forgotten to bring one, so I bought one at the pharmacy next door for $2.50. The pharmacy had put lines with tape on the floor in front of the cash register counter to maintain social distancing and prevent people from getting too close to each other. The woman at the cash register picked up the edge of the mask with a pair of tweezers and I stretched out my arm to get it because we were so far from each other. I had to pay a little more than 200 yen, but they didn’t accept cash, only card. I could pay by just holding up my card, so the shop assistants didn’t have to touch it. It made me feel like some dirty infection-carrying thing but being so careful is helpful. Australia is fortunate to have plenty of space so maintaining good social distancing is easy, but I guess that could be difficult in some cases in Japan and other Asian countries. I hope this all comes to an end and we can return to our usual lives as soon as possible, but until then, I sincerely hope you all stay safe.
They recommend payment by card to prevent the spread of infection from touching cash.
Stickers to maintain social distancing when lining up for the cash register at a supermarket and a pharmacy.
(left): For some reason there has been a shortage of flour for a long time.
(right): Disposable rubber gloves had sold out on this day. In Australia, you often see people out and about wearing disposable gloves.