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Coronavirus fears prompt empty shelves as Canadians follow health minister's advice to stock up – National Post

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In the days since Canada’s health minister encouraged people to stockpile supplies in case of a coronavirus outbreak, photos have emerged of empty shelves at stores across the country.

Customers took to social media over the weekend to report shortages of hand sanitizer, toilet paper, meat, canned goods and food staples such as bread and eggs. Photos showed long lines and rows upon rows of empty shelves. And at Toronto Costco locations, employees were wiping carts with disinfectant wipes as customers entered the store.

Justin Hayek tweeted a text exchange on Saturday with a family member who works at a Costco in Vancouver.

The employee said that people are buying up, meat, canned goods, paper towels and toilet paper and the store had sold out of hand sanitizer the day before in just 30 minutes. “It’s nuts.”

Costco did not respond to a request for comment before press time.

Canadian retailers have experienced both supply issues due to the rail blockades and a ramping up of demand following the outbreak of COVID-19, said Karl Littler, senior vice-president of public affairs for the Retail Council of Canada. But so far, those issues have not resulted in significant shortages as Canadian food retailers reroute cargo and shift from rail to trucking where necessary.

“We really don’t see a problem on food availability,” Littler said. “For the most part, the foods Canadians eat are from Canadian and North American suppliers. So I doubt there are bare shelves on a widespread basis and to the extent anything is in short supply, I’d attribute it more to the blockades.”

Americans also stocked up over the weekend, with reports of panic buying across the country. State health departments had urged residents to prepare for potential quarantines by buying supplies of non-perishable foods, prescription medication and sanitary supplies, said Sylvain Charlebois, the director of Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab.

In general, Americans tend to perceive and respond to food safety concerns differently, Charlebois said.

“I’ve seen this time and again,” he said. “It’s appropriate for people to have some food in the freezer. It’s sound and rational to have three days of inventory at any time for example. But we shouldn’t be overdoing it.”

Health Minister Patty Hajdu recommended last Wednesday that Canadians stock up with enough supplies for “a week or so” in case they or a family member contract the coronavirus and have to remain in self-isolation for 14 days.

“It’s good to be prepared because things can change quickly,” she said.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam echoed that message on Thursday in a tweet urging Canadians to keep extra food and medication on hand.

Vicki Laszlo tweeted Sunday evening that her local Costco in Calgary had run out of toilet paper, tissue and eggs, while rice and canned tomatoes were also running low. Elizabeth Mazzei posted a photo of a “doomsday scenario” in a Burnaby Costco — a checkout line the length of the store — and Twitter user @BeeZee05 posted a photo of a long queue outside a Costco in Burlington, Ont., Sunday morning. Dan Voshart reported a shortage of hand sanitizer at stores across Toronto.

Not everyone agrees that telling Canadians to stock up on supplies was sound advice.

Federal Conservative health critic Matt Jeneroux said telling people to stockpile can incite a lot of public concern, and that the government should be more specific about the steps people should take to prepare for a possible outbreak.

Christine Elliot, the health minister of Ontario, said she believes stockpiling is unnecessary, and that people should continue to go about their lives while being cautious.

The most common COVID-19 symptoms are a fever and dry cough, but while some show no symptoms at all, others have developed severe pneumonia and have even died.

As of Monday morning, WHO had reported 88,948 cases worldwide and 3,043 deaths. Canada has identified 24 cases: 15 in Ontario, eight in B.C. and one in Quebec.

National Post, with files from Naomi Powell, Financial Post and The Canadian Press

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Afterpay delays vote on $29 billion buyout as Square awaits Spain’s nod

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Afterpay Ltd will delay a shareholder meet to approve Square Inc’s $29-billion buyout of the Australian buy now, pay later leader, as the Jack Dorsey-led payment company awaits regulatory nod in Spain.

The investor meet was set for Dec. 6, but Afterpay said it would likely take place next year as Square, which has rebranded itself to Block Inc, is likely to get an approval from the Bank of Spain only in mid-January.

The delay is unlikely to impact the completion of Australia‘s biggest deal, which is set for the first quarter of 2022, Afterpay said.

“We continue to believe the risks of the transaction closing are minimal,” RBC Capital Markets analyst Chami Ratnapala said in a brief client note.

Meanwhile, Twitter Inc co-founder Dorsey is expected to focus on Square after stepping down as chief executive of the social media platform as it looks to expand beyond its payment business and into new technologies like blockchain.

Afterpay shares fell more than 6%, far underperforming the broader Australian market, tracking Square’s 6.6% drop overnight in U.S. market on worries over the Omicron variant.

 

(Reporting by Nikhil Kurian, Sameer Manekar and Indranil Sarkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva, Rashmi Aich and Arun Koyyur)

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Canada Goose under fresh fire in China over no-return policies

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China’s top consumer protection organisation has warned Canada Goose Holdings Inc against “bullying” customers in China with its return policies, just three months after the winterwear brand was fined for false advertising.

The premium down jacket manufacturer has been a hot topic on Chinese social media in recent days over its handling of a case involving a customer who wanted a refund of her purchases amounting to 11,400 yuan ($1,790.17) after finding quality issues.

She said she was told by Canada Goose that all products sold at its retail stores in mainland China were strictly non-refundable, according to her account which went viral online.

State-backed media such as the Global Times newspaper later cited Canada Goose as denying that it had a no-refund policy and that all products sold at its retail stores in mainland China were refundable in line with Chinese laws. The company did not respond to Reuters’ request for comment.

That has not failed to quell criticism of the brand.

“No brand has any privileges in front of consumers,” the government-backed China Consumer Association (CCA) said in an opinion piece posted on its website on Thursday morning.

“If you don’t do what you say, regard yourself as a big brand, behave arrogantly and in a superior way, adopt discriminatory policies, be condescending and bully customers, you will for sure lose the trust of consumers and be abandoned by the market,” the CCA said.

Representatives of the brand were summoned for talks on Wednesday by the Shanghai Consumer Council to explain its refund policy in China.

The dressing down of Canada Goose comes as tension between China and Western countries has fuelled patriotism and driven some shoppers to turn to home-grown labels.

Canada Goose was also fined 450,000 yuan in September in China for “misleading” consumers in its ads.

($1 = 6.3681 Chinese yuan renminbi)

 

(Reporting by Sophie Yu, Brenda Goh; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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Apple tells suppliers demand for iPhone 13 lineup has weakened – Bloomberg News

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Apple Inc has told its component suppliers that demand for the iPhone 13 lineup has slowed, Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter, signaling that some consumers have decided against trying to get the hard-to-find item.

 

(Reporting by Maria Ponnezhath in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

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