By EARYEL BOWLEG
SOME stores and pharmacies in New Providence report being sold out of face masks, hand sanitizers, and Lysol spray as Bahamians prepare for a possible coronavirus outbreak here.
There are no reported or suspected cases of the new deadly coronavirus locally, however, fears of the virus spreading has prompted some residents to stockpile necessary items.
Super Value’s owner Rupert Roberts told The Tribune that customers have bought cases of pocket sized hand sanitizers. He is even shocked that the store is running out of 67 oz bottles of hand sanitizers.
“The public hit it (buying sanitizer) as soon as this virus became known,” he said. “The public bought us out of that as well. I was amazed that the public jumped on to them. I suppose more institutions, restaurants, and other businesses bought them.”
Mr Roberts said the foodstore chain has a low stock of disinfectant wipes. These items began selling out suddenly last week at Super Value and orders have been placed for more stock. However, the store owner is not certain when those shipments will come.
“We’ve bumped up our orders on all medical type of items like … hand sanitizers, disinfectant, soaps, liquids, and, of course, Kleenex and even toilet tissues,” the Super Value boss said.
“They’re expecting a shipment but they don’t know if they’ll be able (to send) any after that because they can’t supply the US and they cutting exports until they can catch up with supplies.”
Cashiers at the store are also being provided with a hand sanitizer. The front door handles, counters, and anything the public touches are being cleaned every hour to prevent the spread of germs.
Raymond Albury, co-owner of the Prescription Centre Pharmacy, said he noticed three to four weeks ago these items were selling out since news of the coronavirus broke.
“It’s been a few weeks now…when they first started to announce it was spreading past China we started to get people coming in the door looking for you know buying a box or so, buying a few here and there,” Mr Albury said.
“These items were never in demand for flu season like face masks, we hardly ever sold them. You know …and hand sanitizer is just you know a normal run of the mill day-by-day (thing). So, yeah, this is very abnormal. Not compared to any of the flu seasons.”
Like Super Value, the pharmacy is also experiencing a challenge with restocking although Mr Albury stated the items are not “100 percent out” but very difficult to find at the moment. He pointed out hand sanitizers are hard to obtain locally and it’s nearly “impossible” to find the recommended N95 face masks as most masks are typically made in China.
According to Mr Albury, other medical items may soon become unavailable.
“We’ve heard lately that the next item (in demand) was going to be the alcohol and spray bottles. That’s going to be the next recommended item because as these things run out, people come out (to buy) the new substitute,” he said.
A cashier at the Centreville Pharmacy, who asked to remain anonymous, attributed the demand for these protective items to the fear surrounding the coronavirus.
“It’s a higher demand now,” she said. “I think because people are more scared and paranoid.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported there are 93,090 confirmed cases globally and 214 deaths outside of China. Eleven of those deaths have occurred in the United States.
Currently, two Bahamians are under quarantine.