Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis.
By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT
PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has urged people to stop panic buying, saying he has been assured the nation has “at least a one to three months’ supply” of food and import shipments are continuing as normal.
This was outlined in a statement released by the Office of the Prime Minister yesterday, after Dr Minnis met with wholesalers and suppliers at his office.
Panic shopping began immediately after the announcement of the country’s first case of COVID-19 on Sunday, with crowds queuing in shops for food and water. Even before a case was confirmed, store owners and pharmacies reported that cleaning supplies, disinfectant and hand sanitiser were flying off the shelves faster than they could be restocked.
This has left some shoppers unable to purchase essential items for their households.
“There is no need for it,” Dr Minnis noted in the press release. “I want to assure the population that we have at least a one to three months’ supply of food on the island and shipping continues as normal.”
Dr Minnis met with representatives of Super Value food stores, AML Foods, as well as local wholesale distributors including pharmaceutical wholesalers and suppliers.
The statement noted that medical supplies are “also healthy with a two months’ supply in stock and more supplies en route,” according to the wholesalers. Household supplies, such as cleaners and disinfectants, are expected to be on the shelves within days and wholesalers intend to build stock above the normal levels.
Like the prime minister, Michael Fields, chief financial officer of Lightbourne Trading, says there is no reason for Bahamians to panic.
“The problem is the hoarders,” Mr Fields stressed. “They are buying everything. There is no need to do that. Everything is pretty much normal for us. We have shipments coming in. Some suppliers have increased production of goods.”
Mr Fields was present at the meeting with the prime minister yesterday.
“We are in good shape,” Mr Fields continued. “The Prime Minister’s Office is also assisting us. The prime minister asked that all those at the meeting give his office a list of items that are priority in order to get clearance from customs etc. I feel we are going to be alright so this panic shopping and hoarding must stop.
“Believe it or not, there are people out there buying lots of blood pressure medicine and other medicines. We must remember these things have expiration dates. It makes no sense to hoard them. They will expire on you and cause more harm than good. There will be no issue getting medicine,” Mr Fields said.
Dr Minnis also said price gouging will not be tolerated and anyone found doing so would be prosecuted.
The novel coronavirus outbreak started in China’s Hubei province of China in December 2019. It was linked to a food market in the town of Wuhan. The virus was identified by Chinese health authorities on January 7, 2020.