COVID-19- Consumers urged to practice responsibility

26/03/2020 11:58

With the World Health Organisation declaring COVID–19 as a pandemic and stories circulating on social media about possible hoarding and shortage of products, there have been substantial buying by consumers firstly for hand sanitisers and masks and even now for food items and cleaning fluids.

The Consumer Council of Fiji has noted that some consumers have taken drastic steps in light of the declaration and have resorted to panic buying.

In a recent survey, the Council has noted a shortage of face masks and hand sanitisers.

This is the result of panic buying which could have serious impacts on our economy, especially the health sector and also vulnerable people, most in need of these essentials.

Firstly, this shortage means that the essential service providers who really need these products may not be able to find it.

Secondly, due to panic buying, retailers have been able to increase the price significantly making exorbitant profits. The survey has revealed that the price of a 1 litre sanitiser that used to cost around $25 is now being retailed at around $50.

Additionally, nowthis increased price also means that a larger segment of the populace will not be able to afford hand sanitisers anymore.

The Council has also seen a chaotic scene where people flocked out in numbers to buy garlicas stories circulated on possible shortage of garlic in the near future.

Council's Chief ExecutiveOfficer, Ms Seema Shandil said “while one may feel more secure when having a couple ofweeks’ worth of essentials and food supplies, what he/she also needs to remember is that not everyone has the ability or enough cash to buy in bulk”.

“We all have panic buttons in ourselves and panic buying helps people feel control of thesituation. Under crisis situations people need to understand and do something that is proportionate to what they perceive is the level of the crisis. In the current crisis, Fijians have been constantly advised by Ministry of Health that washing your hands with soap and waterand practicing coughing and sneezing hygiene is all you need to do at this point. However,despite this we still see people trying to get hold of hand sanitisers paying exorbitant prices inhope of protecting themselves.”

Consumers are also urged to be on the lookout for online traders who might be tapping on people’s anxieties and luring them buy sanitisers and cleaning products with claims that might not be true.

The Consumer Council of Fiji is also calling on all consumers, during this time of crisis to trustMinistry of Health and the Government in its handling of the crisis, practice washing of hand and good hygiene practices and most importantly stop the panic buying.

With normal purchases, all essential food items and other items would be available and would also avoid price increases and hoarding. Consumers are also urged to support each other as the entire world fights to curb COVID-19.