Covid scare sparks panic buying in Cebu stores

Johanna Marie O. Bajenting

A BUYING frenzy once again gripped the public on Thursday, March 12, 2020 as the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) 7 noted that shoppers trooped to stores across Central Visayas for supplies of surgical masks, rubbing alcohol and sanitizers.

The panic buying appeared to have been the result of a case of Covid-19 reported in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, one of the four provinces in the region.

In Cebu, the chief of DTI’s Consumer Protection Division, Ines Cajegas, said pharmacies and supermarkets monitored by the agency since Tuesday, March 10, showed dwindling supplies of surgical masks that became in-demand following health advisories on how to combat the spread of Covid-19.

Shelves containing alcohol and sanitizers in supermarkets and department stores in Cebu City were almost empty; however, the DTI Cebu assured that merchants had enough supplies of the commodity to replenish their stocks.

“There’s a scarcity of face masks but there are a few pharmacies that still sell face masks but on a limited number like five pieces per customer. For alcohol and sanitizers, the items are still abundant in supermarkets and department stores,” Cajegas told SunStar Cebu.

She warned against panic buying as this would disrupt the supply of retailers as well as hoarding and selling above the suggested retail price or SRP.

“Consumers should stay calm and buy in the same quantities. Panic buying will result in an artificial shortage,” she said.

The Philippine Retailers Association also warned against panic buying because it will disrupt their supply, saying their items were only viable for ordinary buying, not heavy spending.

In the first wave of panic buying last January, complaints of overpricing reached the DTI 7 which prompted the agency to issue a warning to pharmacies and medical suppliers not to take advantage of the sudden spike in the demand for surgical masks or face penalties.

The agency also issued show-cause orders to pharmacies following complaints of overpricing from consumers.

Meanwhile, the chief of the Police Regional Office (PRO) in Central Visayas, said he will investigate reports of hoarding of face masks, alcohol and sanitizers.

“For those that are hoarding, you will be investigated,” said Police Brig. Gen. Albert Ignatius Ferro.

Ferro said the police will coordinate with the DTI. (with AYB )