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Coronavirus pandemic panic buying

58% of Filipino adults have been unable to buy essential items amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

As COVID-19 has spread across the globe so too has panic buying, leaving many unable to buy basic necessities. But just how bad is it in the Philippines? To investigate, Finder surveyed 2,021 Filipino adults from March 16-18.

Finder’s research reveals that more than half of Filipinos (58%) surveyed couldn’t purchase basic necessities in the past month. That’s an estimated 39.8 million Filipinos who were unable to buy items like food, medicine, toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

Those unable to buy essential items in the last month% of Filipinos
Able to buy58%
Unable to buy42%

Fresh food and hand sanitizer are the hardest to come by

It turns out that fresh food products are the hardest to come by, with 27% of Filipinos unable to make a purchase. With most local wet and dry markets being ordered by local governments to close down, this shouldn’t be much of a surprise.

More than one-quarter of Filipinos (26%) have been unable to buy hand sanitizer and soap. If you’re still struggling to find hand sanitizer in-store you may want to consider rubbing alcohol instead. Here’s a list of places to buy rubbing alcohol online. Don’t forget the two-item limit!

Sadly, more than a fifth of Filipinos (22%) say they couldn’t buy medicine. Other products people couldn’t buy include dry food (17%), toilet paper (16%) and other toiletries (14%). Hopefully, the stricter shopping guidelines set by the Department of Trade and Industry will help abate these difficulties.

What have you been unable to buy in the last month?% of Filipinos
Fresh food27%
Toilet paper or tissue16%
Hand sanitizer or soap26%
Other toiletries14%
Dry food17%

Filipinos aged 45-54 most likely to struggle at the shops

Among the age groups, Finder’s survey reveals that Filipinos aged 45-54 are having the hardest time buying necessities. About three in five of Filipinos (61%) in this age bracket couldn’t purchase at least one of the items included in the survey. Those aged 25-34 are a close second (60%), followed by those aged 35-44 (58%).

Luckily, the eldest Filipinos don’t seem to be struggling as much as the rest. 36% of those aged 65 and above report being unable to purchase necessities.

Fresh food24%27%27%28%22%14%
Other toiletries14%14%11%12%15%14%
Dry food17%19%14%18%22%14%
Hand sanitizer or soap29%28%25%25%26%23%
Toilet paper17%15%14%19%11%14%
None of the above45%40%42%39%46%64%

Filipino women find it harder to shop than men

In terms of gender, more women (59%) found it harder to make a purchase compared to men (55%). In fact, women were consistently more likely to face trouble at the shops across all product categories.

The gap widened for medicine, with 26% of women saying they couldn’t buy medicine compared to just 18% of men – a difference of eight percentage points. However, the gap was less significant for other products like dry food, hand sanitizer and fresh food. For instance, men (16%) and women (17%) were almost just as likely to face trouble purchasing dry food.

Fresh food28%25%
Toiletries aside from toilet paper/soap16%11%
Dry food (rice etc)17%16%
Hand sanitizer/soap28%25%
Toilet paper/tissues19%13%
None of the above41%45%

How the Philippines compares to other countries for hoarding

Finder ran the same survey in six countries: the United States, Canada, Ireland, South Africa, Hong Kong and the Philippines.

The Philippines recorded the highest number of people unable to buy essential goods (58%), followed closely by the United States and South Africa (56% each). Of the six countries, those living in Hong Kong are least likely to report being unable to buy what they need (43%).

Country% Unable to Buy Essential Goods
United States56%
South Africa56%
Hong Kong43%

North Americans struggling to buy toilet paper

Nearly one in three North Americans have been unable to buy toilet paper, suggesting it’s a popular item to panic buy in the region – or perhaps demand has simply outstripped supply for other reasons. 32% of Americans and 30% of Canadians have been unable to buy toilet paper compared to 16% of people in the Philippines, 17% of people in Hong Kong and 18% of people in Ireland.

Country% Unable to Buy Toilet Paper
United States32%
South Africa21%
Hong Kong17%

South Africans unable to buy hand sanitizer

Over a third of South Africans say they’ve been unable to buy hand sanitizer in the last month (37%), the most of any country in the study. Nearly a third of Americans reported the same (32%), followed by Canadians and Irish (29% each).

Country% Unable to Buy Hand Sanitizer
South Africa37%
United States32%
Hong Kong20%

South Africans and Filipinos struggle to buy dry food

18% of South Africans reported they were unable to buy dry food like rice. Filipinos were the next most likely to report the same (17%), followed by Americans and Canadians (15% each).

Country% Unable to Buy Dry Food
South Africa18%
United States15%
Hong Kong12%

Fresh food hardest to buy in the Philippines

Those living in the Philippines had the most difficulty buying fresh food, with 27% reporting they’ve been unable to buy fresh food in the last month. South Africans were the next most likely to report being unable to buy fresh food (21%), followed by North Americans (18% for Canadians and 17% for Americans).

Country% Unable to Buy Fresh Food
South Africa21%
United States17%
Hong Kong13%

South Africans struggling the most to buy toiletries

South Africans are the most likely to say they’ve been unable to buy toiletries (excluding toilet paper), at 18%. Those from the United States and the Philippines are the next most likely to say they’ve been unable to buy toiletries (14% each).

Country% Unable to Buy Toiletries
South Africa18%
United States14%
Hong Kong12%


One in five Filipinos (22%) have been unable to buy medicine in the last month, the most of any country included in the survey. A large proportion of South Africans (19%) said the same. A similar number of Hong Kong residents, Americans, Canadians and Irish reported being unable to buy medicine – roughly 1 in 10.

Country% Unable to Buy Medicine
South Africa19%
Hong Kong11%
United States11%

Where to buy necessities online

With the uncertainties of how long this pandemic will last, it’s no surprise that many are still flocking to supermarkets to stock up on necessities. However, it can be daunting for many to leave the house – even if it’s just to pick up the groceries.

Online shopping is a great way to find those products that are unavailable in physical stores and to help limit community transmission of the virus. Here are our handy guides on where to buy products online:

Where to buyGuide
Isopropyl AlcoholWhere to buy isopropyl alcohol online
Hand soapWhere to buy hand soap online
TissuesWhere to buy tissues online
Cleaning spraysWhere to buy cleaning sprays online
Surface disinfectant wipesWhere to buy surface disinfectant wipes online
Laundry detergentWhere to buy laundry detergent online
BleachWhere to buy bleach online
Garbage bagsWhere to buy garbage bags online


Image: Getty

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