President Jokowi urges calm amid signs of panic buying after Indonesia's first COVID-19 cases

President Jokowi urges calm amid signs of panic buying after Indonesia's first COVID-19 cases

Woman wearing protective mask walks at a sidewalk near business district in Jakarta
A woman wearing protective mask walks at a sidewalk near business district in Jakarta, Indonesia March 2, 2020. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Tuesday (Mar 3) urged people to remain calm amid signs of panic buying in supermarkets and drugstores after the country announced its first COVID-19 cases.

“People don’t need to buy daily necessities in bulk,” the president told a press conference at the State Palace.

“This is what drives goods scarcity, buying in bulk, stockpiling. The government guarantees the availability of basic commodities and medicines.”

Coordinating Minister for the Economy Airlangga Hartarto said the president has instructed his cabinet members to take measures to ensure the availability of basic commodities and medicines.

“There is no need for panic buying because there is ample supply of basic commodities, food and medicines,” Mr Hartarto said in a statement.

READ: 15 people quarantined in Batam after having close contact with Singapore's COVID-19 patients

The minister said the government is in talks with retailers, manufactures, pharmaceutical companies and distributors to make sure that goods and medicines continue to be available and affordable.

The government is also instructing supermarkets and retailers to start rationing certain items to prevent people from stockpiling, he added.   

SPIKE IN SALES

Within hours after the government announced the country’s first two cases of COVID-19 - a 31-year-old female dance instructor in a Jakarta suburb and her 64-year-old mother - people in the Greater Jakarta Area were said to have rushed to supermarkets and traditional retailers to buy food and medicine.

The rush led to shortages in surgical masks and hand sanitisers. Long queues at supermarkets could also be seen.

READ: WHO says world in uncharted territory as US COVID-19 toll rises

Mr Satria Hamid, corporate communications vice president of supermarket chain Transmart Carrefour said his supermarkets in the Greater Jakarta Area saw an increase of 60 per cent to 70 per cent in sales on Monday.

The influx of customers led to long queues at the supermarkets as items like rice, instant noodles, wet towels and hand sanitisers were sold out.

“Today the number of shoppers is still higher than usual but it is not as big as yesterday,” Mr Hamid told CNA on Tuesday.   

“Even though some items were sold out yesterday, we still have ample supply at our warehouses. There is no need for consumers to worry about shortage and start stockpiling goods.”

Herbs Jakarta market
The prices of some items like ginger and shallots have increased recently in Jakarta. (Photo: Amir Yusof) 

Traditional markets across Jakarta also saw an influx of shoppers on Monday.

“In some areas, there was a 50 per cent increase in the number of shoppers. (There was also) 65 per cent to 70 per cent increase in sales,” said Mr Arief Nasrudin, director of Jakarta’s state-owned traditional market operator PD Pasar Jaya.

“There was a shortage for a few items like rice, surgical masks and hand sanitisers. We have replenished the supply and today they are available again.”      

READ: Seven new COVID-19 cases in Malaysia

POLICE WARN RETAILERS AGAINST PROFITEERING

The Indonesian police warned retailers that they could face criminal charges for stockpiling goods to create scarcity and price hikes.

“If we find distributors or sellers who try to take advantage of this situation, we will arrest them,” General Daniel Tahi Monang of the National Police criminal investigation division was quoted as saying by Indonesian media on Tuesday.

“We will coordinate with market operators to monitor (prices and supply) everyday.”

READ: Jakarta police tracking down mastermind behind illegal surgical mask factory

Police are also reportedly beefing up security in several supermarkets and shopping malls to stop panic buying from descending into chaos or looting.

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Source: CNA/ni(aw)

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