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Panic buying grips Bloemfontein

Staff Reporter

Bloemfontein residents are emptying shelves in some of the leading retail outlets across the city as they prepare for a possible lockdown in the face of the deadly coronavirus pandemic, also known as COVID-19.

Panic set in on Sunday night after President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the outbreak a national disaster and announced a raft of measures to be implemented by the country to try and contain its spread.

The measure include the closing of 35 of the South Africa’s 72 borders, the closing of schools and the banning of visitors from some of the worst affected countries overseas.

Most people are stocking up on meat, sanitisers, toilet paper, tinned foods and other foodstuffs with a long shelf life.

“Our shelves have been emptied,” said one worker at a pharmacy in the city centre who preferred not to be named.

“I think people have just become unreasonable because they don’t really need what they are buying now.

“We had a customer who wanted to spend about R7 000 on sanitisers, toilet paper, vitamin tablets and wet wipes for a family of four. We advised her there was no need stock up so much because other customers will also need the same goods to protect themselves. She eventually took the stuff but it was still too much.”

 

One customer pushing a full trolley with his wife and kids inside a leading retail chain store in Langenhoven Park said it was not panic buying but was just “buying in advance”.

“It’s not panic buying. I am just buying while things are still available,” he said as he walked away.

South Africa has 62 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and the number could rise as the government continues to trace those that have made contact with those that have tested positive to the virus.

In a statement posted on its website, Shoprite appealed to customers to only buy what they need and avoid stockpiling.

Shoprite chief executive officer Pieter Engelbrecht assured customers that the leading retailer is doing everything in its power to restock shelves as quickly as possible and that warehouses have stock available.

“The gaps which are now evident on our shelves and those of other supermarkets are because of the unprecedented demand as a result of fear over the effect of the coronavirus, but we have new stock arriving regularly and we are working around the clock to keep shelves stocked,” Engelbrecht said.

Pick n Pay is quoted by BusinessTech as saying: “We have a good business continuity plan which focuses on maintaining our supply chain and retail operations so that our customers can continue to get the products they want and expect from our stores.”

Consumer organisations have expressed concern that some businesses might increase prices, as they try to take advantage of desperate customers.

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