Panic buying forces Bajhang Salt Trading depot to stop the sale of saltPeople coming from faraway villages returned home empty-handed.
On Sunday, the Salt Trading Corporation’s distribution centre in Chainpur saw over 700 anxious buyers. Following the government’s decision on Sunday to shut down borders with India and China, many in rural Bajhang scrambled to secure essential supplies, fearing that there would be a shortage in the market, officials at the depo said.
The massive influx of buyers was too much for the depo’s officials, and hence, the District Administration Office ordered the distribution centre to halt the sale of salt for the time being. People coming from faraway villages returned home empty-handed.
“We walked the whole day to come here to buy salt,” Dammar Bohara of Suil, in Jayaprithvi Municipality, said. “We waited in the queue for an hour, and then were suddenly informed that the depo had closed.”
Bohara said that the administration violated its own decision of smoothly running essential services by halting the sale of salt.
“If we were informed earlier that the depot won’t be selling salt, we would not have come here at all,” he said.
Kalpana Khati from Thalara Rural Municipality was also disappointed.
“We cancelled all of the day’s work and spent over a thousand rupees to come here and buy salt,” she said. “It’s sad that we have to return empty-handed.”
The number of people at the depo on Sunday was a massive increase from a daily average of 100 customers, according to Tek Bahadur Bohara, chief of the corporation’s Chainpur depo. “We had to close because people might get exposed to the virus in such a crowd,” he said. “Rumours saying there’s a shortage of salt are false. The depo has a stock of over 1,500 quintals of salt. We will open again soon.”
Chief District Officer Umesh Pandey said that he has ordered people to stay at home and only go out when absolutely needed.
“When over 700 people show up at a place during the time of coronavirus, you have to take extreme measures,” he said. “There’s no shortage of salt in the district. People should stop spreading rumours.”
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of June 4, 2020
What is Covid-19?
Covid-19, short for coronavirus disease, is an illness caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, short for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Common symptoms of the disease include fever, dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
How contagious is Covid-19?
Covid-19 can spread easily from person to person, especially in enclosed spaces. The virus can travel through the air in respiratory droplets produced when a sick person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes. As the virus can also survive on plastic and steel surfaces for up to 72 hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours, any contact with such surfaces can also spread the virus. Symptoms take between two to 14 days to appear, during which time the carrier is believed to be contagious.
Where did the virus come from?
The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China in late December. The coronavirus is a large family of viruses that is responsible for everything from the common cold to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). After an initial outbreak in Wuhan that spread across Hubei province, eventually infecting over 80,000 and killing more than 3,000, new infection rates in mainland China have dropped. However, the disease has since spread across the world at an alarming rate.
What is the current status of Covid-19?
The World Health Organisation has called the ongoing outbreak a “pandemic” and urged countries across the world to take precautionary measures. Covid-19 had spread to 213 countries and infected more than 6,493,384 people with 383,646 deaths. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 211,770 with 5,982 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 80,463 confirmed cases with 1,688 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 2,634 cases with ten deaths.
How dangerous is the disease?
The mortality rate for Covid-19 is estimated to be 3.6 percent, but new studies have put the rate slightly higher at 5.7 percent. Although Covid-19 is not too dangerous to young healthy people, older individuals and those with immune-compromised systems are at greater risk of death. People with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, or those who’ve recently undergone serious medical procedures, are also at risk.
How do I keep myself safe?
The WHO advises that the most important thing you can do is wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol content. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unclean hands. Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces like your computers and phones. Avoid large crowds of people. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist for longer than a few days.
Is it time to panic?
No. The government has imposed a lockdown to limit the spread of the virus. There is no need to begin stockpiling food, cooking gas or hand sanitizers. However, it is always prudent to take sensible precautions like the ones identified above.