Toilet paper sales in Germany soar as coronavirus numbers go up

As coronavirus cases continue to go up in Germany, the demand for some hygiene products, including toilet roll, has shot up, according to official figures.

Toilet paper sales in Germany soar as coronavirus numbers go up
A sign in a Berlin shop urging people not to hoard or "hamstern". Photo: DPA

A report by the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) shows that sales figures for toilet paper in Germany in the week of October 12th to 17th were almost twice as high (+89.9 percent) as the average for the pre-crisis months of August 2019 to January 2020.

Sales of disinfectants during this week were almost three quarters (+72.5 percent) above the pre-crisis average and sales of soap were almost two thirds (+62.3 percent) higher than the the pre-crisis average.

READ ALSO: Toilet paper disappears from German supermarket shelves as panic buying returns

Demand for disinfectants and soap remained slightly above average even during the summer, when food sales had largely returned to normal.

In the 42nd calendar week (October 12th-17th), demand for certain food products also picked up. Compared to the pre-crisis average, sales of flour rose by more than a quarter (+28.4 percent) and yeast by more than a third (+34.8 percent). However, sales of pasta such as noodles were slightly below average (-0.2 percent).

Politicians and trade associations have said the supply situation of daily consumer goods is secure and have urged the population to refrain from “hoarding”.

Der Hamsterkauf is the German word used to describe the panic buying or hoarding that occurs during times of widespread fear or concern.

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Der Hamsterkauf

It comes from the verb hamstern, which means “to hoard or panic buy” since hamsters are known for filling their cheeks with food.

At the beginning of the pandemic, empty supermarket shelves were a common sight in Germany as shops sold out of products like toilet roll, soap, tinned tomatoes, pasta and flour.


Toilet paper – (das) Toilettenpapier

Disinfectant – (das) Desinfektionsmittel

Toiletries/hygiene products – (die) Hygieneartikeln

We're aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

Due to high Covid infection numbers throughout the summer, it’s now possible to get a sick note from a doctor over the phone again for some illnesses. Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

What’s happened?

In spring 2020, German authorities changed the law so that people with a mild upper respiratory tract illness, such as the common cold, were able to get an incapacity to work certificate or AU-Bescheinigung by simply calling and speaking to their GP.

The rule was extended several times and finally reversed on June 1st this year due to falling infection figures. Since then people have had to go back to the practice – or do a video call if the doctor’s office has that system in place – to get a sick note.

Now, due to a decision by the Joint Federal Committee, the regulation has been reintroduced and patients can call their GP again for a sick note.

Can I get a sick note over the phone for any illness?

No. As before, the regulation only applies to patients suffering from a mild upper respiratory tract illness. Though Covid has not explicitly been named in the announcement, it seems that it is intended to be covered by the regulation.

If the doctor is convinced that the patient is unfit for work after a telephone consultation, then they can issue a sick note for up to seven days.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The changes around doctor’s notes in Germany you should know

If the symptoms persist after seven days, the certificate can be extended once more for another week.

Why now?

According to the Chairman of the G-BA, Josef Hecken, the regulation has been introduced now as a response to rising Covid numbers and in anticipation of the cold and flu season in the coming months: “We want to avoid full waiting rooms in doctors’ offices and the emergence of new infection chains,” he said.

The telephone sick leave rule is a simple, proven and uniform nationwide solution for that, he said. The rule is also necessary because video consultation hours are not yet available everywhere.

What else should I know?

The health insurer DAK is calling for telephone sick leave in the case of light respiratory diseases to be made possible on a permanent basis in Germany. DAK’s CEO Andreas Storm said that this should “not always be up for debate, because it has proven itself.” 

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about making a doctor’s appointment in Germany

The social association VdK also welcomed the reintroduction of the rule. The VdK’s President Verena Bentele said that the regulation would help to protect high-risk groups in particular from potential infections.

What are the rules to know about sick notes in Germany?

Germany has a strict system in place. If you are sick, you need to give your employer a Krankmeldung (notification of sickness) before the start of work on the first day (of your illness).

However, you also need to hand in a Krankschreibung (doctor’s note) on the fourth day of your illness. Some employments contracts, however, require you to submit a sick not earlier than the fourth day so check with your boss or HR on that point.