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Customers wait to cash their goods during panick buying at Pennywise Supercenter in La Romaine, yesterday.

RADHICA DE SILVA

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Terrified of facing food and pharmaceutical shortages because of the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, citizens across the country have started engaging in panic buying.

Stripped bare of disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizers, liquid soap and toilet paper, the shelves at various businesses were being continually restocked yesterday.

At the Pennywise Supercentre in La Romaine, some items ran out.

Assistant manager Matthew Joseph said, “Because of the coronavirus people are panic buying, so there is a high demand for disinfectants, liquid soaps and sanitizers. Some of the shelves are empty.”

He said the price of the items have remained the same despite the increase in demand. However, he said in order to share the items among customers they have limited the amount of supplies to people.

“We are allowing customers to buy only six cans of disinfectant wipes. People have been coming here and asking for cases,” he added.

Joseph said the rush for products escalated over the past two days. That could now increase considerably after T&T announced its first COVID-19 case yesterday.

On Wednesday, United States President Donald Trump announced that the US would issue a 30-day ban on travel from the European Union, excluding the United Kingdom and a number of other notable exceptions, from today. This does not ban cargo or goods but it is expected that this will have dire global economic ramifications.

Donald Harripersad, who went to the Pennywise Supercentre, said he was expecting some relatives from New York who had actually asked him to purchase sanitizers in Trinidad to send back to the US.

“My family is coming in from abroad and they said sanitizers were expensive and hard to get in New York, so they asked me to pick up some but when I got here the shelves are empty,” Harripersad said.

He said he planned to go to Pricemart to see if he could get any more supplies.

Bachani Cipriani, who was seen picking up cleaning supplies, said she was taking no chances.

“It is better to be safe than sorry. I have a grandchild so I am not taking any chances,” she said.

At the pharmacy, there were also long lines as people stocked up on children’s cough syrup, Panadol and other pharmaceuticals.

At Pricemart in La Romaine, it was a similar scene. Shelves of bleach and Lysol had been restocked. Cases of toilet paper were being purchased along with other essentials. The situation was the same at the Pricemart branches in Chaguanas, D’abadie and Port-of-Spain.

In a statement yesterday, Chief Executive Officer of PriceSmart, Inc, Sherry S. Bahrambeygui, said the company was monitoring inventories in the supply chain and upstream.

“As of today, we are maintaining good inventory on a majority of our products. We are actively seeking additional inventory you may need on an expedited basis. We are setting reasonable limits on the number of units of certain items that can be purchased, in an effort to serve all of our Members,” Bahrambeygui said.

She added, “We’ve ramped up the frequency and intensity of cleaning protocols and dedicated more staff to this important responsibility. Sanitizing wipes are near workstations and hand sanitizers are available throughout the clubs. High-touch areas such as door handles, carts, food service and restroom areas are cleaned more often and more thoroughly. Sampling of unsealed food products has been suspended.”

Bahrambeygui said Pricemart has also suspended all non-essential business travel and has cancelled large in-person meetings and business events.