After being asked and not knowing, I decided to do some investigating about why people are panic-buying toilet paper.
It seems someone tweeted in Japan about being concerned about a shortage of toilet paper because they import their toilet paper from China, and China had all of their manufacturing shut down for a while. So they had a toilet paper panic in Japan, and people started posting pictures of the empty shelves.
From there the panic spread to Australia, mostly I suspect, due to the pictures they were seeing online. To be fair, I don’t know if Australia also imports their toilet paper from China, or if they manufacture theirs domestically.
From Australia, the panic spread to the UK, U.S., and Canada. I don’t know about the UK. The U.S. and Canada, however, primarily use toilet paper manufactured in North America. Besides domestic manufacturing, we do import both from Canada and Mexico. We do also import 10% of our supply from overseas, including both India and China. I would imagine domestic manufacturing could be ramped up to replace the loss of that 10% in a heartbeat.
So what it comes down to is, people are panic-buying toilet paper in the U.S. because Japan imports their toilet paper from China.