What do we search for online amid Coronavirus fears?
By Lauren Noakes
Published 11th March 2020
Last modified 5th March 2023
Last modified 5th March 2023
With Coronavirus being the main topic in the news worldwide and amongst colleagues, friends and families and things like toilet paper and hand sanitiser are becoming as rare as sunshine in the UK, we wanted to see, what are the every-day things people search for more than ever before. We looked at countries, which have been impacted by the virus quite heavily, like Italy, France and the UK and countries, where not that many cases have been reported, like our neighbours Ireland (34 cases) and Lithuania (3 cases). We were interested to see, whether trends for these every-day goods are different in these countries and if it has any effect on the spread of the virus.
The first product we looked at was toilet paper. If you’re living in the UK, you have probably noticed that toilet paper aisles are becoming more and more empty. People are going to places like Amazon, to find this, as we would think couple of weeks before, basic product. However, it looks like this trend exists in other countries as well, with only Italy from the five countries seeing a decline in search term ‘toilet paper’.
Hand sanitiser started to disappear from shelves the second UK had its first COVID-19 case confirmed. Now hand sanitisers are almost impossible to find in shops and if you’re looking to buy online, be prepared to pay silly money or just trade your two-bedroom house for it. However, it looks like all the countries we looked at had a ’never-seen-before’ spike in interest for hand sanitisers. We can see that this trend is decreasing slightly in three countries, however, in Lithuania it’s still going up. Lithuania saw it’s first coronavirus case only last week which is significantly later than most of the world. In Italy, after the first wave of interest in hand sanitisers decreased, it picked up again with terms like ‘how to make hand sanitiser’ becoming more and more popular.
With fears of possible self-isolation, people are starting to stock-up on foods like pasta, rice and canned goods. Like other products mentioned before, it is quite hard to find dry pasta in shops, unless you’re an early bird and can go to shops before most people do their shopping. These observations don’t lie – the UK has seen an increase in ‘dry pasta’ search term and so has the French (quite a huge increase). While in Italy pasta could be one of the most searched for food in general, coronavirus fears have made the search term see an increase, however, it is not as steep as in France. Our neighbours, the Irish, have actually seen a decrease in interest for pasta, however, more people are searching for ‘rice’ online. In Lithuania, the interest in search term ‘pasta’ (makaronai in Lithuanian) has not seen a huge interest if compared to rest of the year.
Oh, the British and the tea. Can you imagine tea without milk? Probably not and you’re not the only one. With fears of being in self-isolation and not being able to buy milk people are increasingly looking for UHT milk. For those who don’t know, it is produced in a specific way which allows the milk to stay fresh for longer. That means – more teatime even if you cannot leave your home. Everyone, but the Italian, are showing more interest in UHT milk than ever.