Tearful Nurse Confronted With Empty Supermarket Shelves After 48-Hour Shift Pleads for End to Coronavirus Panic Buying

A nurse has recorded an emotional video message in which she tearfully describes her distress at not being able to find key provisions at her local supermarket due to panic buying brought about by the coronavirus.

Around the world, the pandemic has spurred people to rush to their supermarkets and stores to stock up on essential products, with images of trolleys stacked high with toilet paper being symbols of these unprecedented times.

But Dawn Bilbrough, from York in northern England, said she saw the stripped shelves as signs of selfishness and urged people to think of others when they go shopping.

In a video recorded in her car after she was unable to find any fruit or vegetables in the supermarket, she said: "I'm a critical care nurse, and I've just finished 48 hours of work."

Empty supermarket shelf
People shop in aisles with empty shelves in a Sainsbury's supermarket in Walthamstow, east London on March 20, 2020. There are fears that panic buying due to the coronavirus is leaving vulnerable people without food. Tolga AKMEN/Getty Images

"I've just wanted to get some stuff in for the next 48 hours. There's no fruit, there's no vegetables, I just don't know how I am supposed to stay healthy.

"And those people, people are just stripping the shelves of basic foods."

"You just need to stop it, because it's people like me that are going to be looking after you when you're at your lowest. So just stop it, please!" she said.

The video was broadcast on the BBC and has been shared widely on social media, with more than 3.5 million views by Friday afternoon.

The major supermarkets in the U.K. have put in measures to restrict shoppers from cleaning the shelves out.

The chains Sainsbury's and Asda have announced that customers can only buy three of any one item and two for popular items like toilet paper and long-lasting milk. Tesco is limiting people to five items on key products like pasta, gels and sprays until further notice.

British supermarkets are also restricting hours and prioritizing elderly people in certain time slots.

Meanwhile in the U.S., Greg Ferrara, president of the National Grocers Association, said there was enough product but that supply chains were being impacted.

"So, when you go into a store, if you see empty shelves, it's taking us a while to get the product flowing through supply chain back to the stores," he told NPR.

"The problem is, we do have people who are buying a month's worth of groceries, as opposed to a week's worth of groceries.

"And we ask people just to remain calm. Buy what you need for this week for a week-and-a-half. Take care of yourself. And that will allow us to catch up, allow us to get the supply chain restocked, get product back on stores," he said.

The graph below by Statista shows the global extent of the coronavirus as of March 20.

Number of COVID-19 cases compared to recoveries
Number of COVID-19 cases compared to recoveries.