Coronavirus fears spark panic buying nationwide as government urges calmThere is enough stock of daily essential items to last six months, with enough liquid petroleum gas to last a month, according to a report.
Industry Minister Lekh Raj Bhatta said that there are no shortages of essential goods in the market but buyers are still stocking up.
“It’s because we have a weak supply chain and lack coordination among government bodies that often causes panic among consumers to stockpile goods.”
Chandra Ghimire, secretary at the ministry, said that the government has been working on regulating and inspecting the market actively. “If traders are found involved in unfair trade practices to earn a quick buck to take advantage of a crisis period, they will face action,'' he said.
Surendra Poudel, general manager at Nepal Oil Corporation, said liquefied petroleum gas plants are supplying 30,000 gas cylinders daily in the Kathmandu Valley. However, long lines can be seen as consumers rush to secure a cylinder.
Similarly, the government is also planning to operate a hotline number so that consumers can complain if they face any problem in getting essential goods and the inspection team will work immediately off their tip, Bhatta said.
Bhatta said that the report from Food Management and Trading Company, Salt Trading and traders shows that there is enough stock of daily essential items to last six months, with enough liquid petroleum gas to last a month.
Rather than fearing and panic buying, consumers need to be aware and stay alert, said Bhatta. “The government has done the necessary preparation for smooth supply and distribution of essential goods with the resources that we have,” he said.
“The Indian government has also informed suppliers of essential drugs and if a problem in supply arises, we will try to solve it diplomatically,” he said.
In terms of market inspection, all ministries will be coordinating with all the related departments and local government. “The Indian government has said that they will not halt the supply of essential goods,” said Bhatta.
The ministry said it would request the Finance Ministry to provide a custom waiver on the import of masks and sanitisers to ensure smooth transport.
Baikuntha Aryal, secretary at the ministry, said that a memorandum of understanding has been signed between Salt trading and Trading Corporation of Bangladesh for direct trade on essential goods.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of May 31, 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 6,047,908 people with 368,758 deaths. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 173,763 with 4,971 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 66,457 confirmed cases with 1,395 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 1401 cases with six 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.