Despite no official holdback on trade and essential supplies, a hoard of people was seen rushing for face masks, hand sanitizers, fuel and groceries after the confirmation on the first COVID-19 case on 6th March.
Earlier the Ministry of Economic Affairs released a press note which stated that the Ministry will ensure uninterrupted supplies on essential needs and basic commodities like gas and fuel. Along with that, the ministry advises the people to take precautionary health and hygiene measures to be proactive in preventing any form of transmission and advised the general public to abstain from large gatherings.
The Office of Consumer Protection also asked businesses to not hoard or raise prices or take advantage of the situation and display price tags. Consumers were asked to notify OCP which would deal with the cases as per its rules which would include cancellation of business licenses among other actions.
The main town was ghastlier than usual yesterday in terms of vehicles parked in the main town area and very few people commuted the normally-bustling streets.
However, the fuel depots in town, Olakha and Changzamtog were congested at a jam- with vehicles lined-up circling the entire premise.
Another area which saw a large number of customers was at a shop in Sabzi Bazaar, where people crowded to buy essentials in stocks.
The Shopkeeper stated that, they had enough stock, but were cautiously distributing in equal proportions to buyers despite some of them demanding more than the other.
She said that, they had to close the main gate from time to time, as groups of people entering the shop was unlike other days and they were having hard time calculating on the purchases being made.
The main items being bought were bags of rice and packets of toilet papers among other essential goods that one would normally resort to in anticipation of a state of emergency.
The panic buying does not make much sense as trade and transport via Phuentsholing is very much in place.
Pharmacies in Thimphu run short due to rush
Menzey Pharmacy said, “It’s been a week or more since sanitizers have gone out of stock at our shop. All the masks got sold out this morning. There has been no change in price from the suppliers and we have been selling the masks at normal prices. Suppliers tell us that they are also out of stock for the products”.
Modern Pharmacy said “We are currently out of stock on both the products, we restock once a week from the border town suppliers. The suppliers have increased their prices and we are selling at maximum retail price (MRP) as we buy from them”.
Norling Pharmacy said “Suppliers have increased prices and are short of stock themselves”.
Keunphen Pharmacy said “It’s been a while we have gone for restocking but from what we know, the suppliers have increased the prices. Hand sanitizers are in big demand”.
In February, the OCP had notified all business entity dealing in supply and sale of medical equipment to refrain from charging unreasonable and exorbitant price on any medical equipment or products meant for prophylactic purpose to prevent and control the ongoing epidemic of corona virus- through media and circulars.
During the press conference on COVID-19 yesterday, the PM Dr. Lotay Tshering stated that there is now law against people stocking up or hoarding but people would have to apply their common sense and Buddhist values and there would not a problem. The PM hoped that people would not hoard.
He said there is chances of people stocking up on masks and hand sanitizers and for that prices may also go up and precautions need to be taken.
Addressing the issue of people mass buying masks and hand sanitizers Lyonchhen said he called the Minister for Economic Affairs to ensure that people do not increase prices as per the existing laws and if prices are increased then the action should be taken as per the laws.
I told the DRA to also inform that the prices of such goods should not be increased otherwise action should be taken as per the law of the land.