POINTLESS PANIC-BUYING: Everyone hoarding rice, toilet paper and other stuff can chill – tons of supplies (literally) on Friday’s cargo ship will add to two-month stock in storage


Given the shocking restrictions, closures and cancellations during the past two days due to the coronavirus threat, it’s understandable some people in Longyearbyen are engaging in the panic-buying emptying shelves on the mainland. But while Svalbard is isolated far from urban supply centers, that means the warehouse at Svalbardbutikken is already carrying two months’ of essential supplies for long-term situations.

And that’s if normal deliveries by air and ship are disrupted, which they’re not as another cargo ship carrying many tons of pretty much everything aside from fresh produce, daily and meat arrives in town Friday.

So while it’s understandable people might want supplies at home if they suddenly find themselves quarantined (such as if they’ve returned from non.Nordic countries since Feb. 26), the official reassurances supplies will remain available seem to be reasonable for those inclined to hoard.

Also, besides Svalbardbutikken, the Mix kiosk and Longyearbyen Thai Shop remain open with smaller stocks, but for many staple items including noodles, rice, dairy and, yes, toilet paper.

Long lines at Svalbardbutikken and lots of anxious questions have been seen at Svalbardbutikken since the first local quarantine of people was announced Wednesday morning (tests as of Thursday for the one to five people affected are negative). That was followed during the afternoon with a series of nationwide restrictions including cancelling large events and the local cancellation of cultural activities including the Solfestuka festival.

Certain items such as canned foods, large bags of rice and toilet paper were noticeably depleted Wednesday evening at Longyearbyen’s only major supermarket.

The shock and shutdowns escalated to another level early Thursday afternoon when Norway announced the closure of all education institutions, cancellation of all sports and cultural events, many non-essential businesses, and a mandatory quarantine for travellers arriving from non-Nordic countries. Although Svalbardbutikken employees were restocking shelves, another round of rush buying resulted in a sporadic mix of full of empty sections.

(This is a developing story in progress.)