The announcement of TT’s first covid19 case on Thursday sparked panic buying by Tobagonians.
Minutes after the announcement by the Minister of Health, Penny Savers supermarket in Carnbee was filled as customers, on their way home from work, crowded the grocery emptying shelves of toilet paper, cleaning supplies, hand sanitiser, canned foods, wet wipes, bleach and other disinfectant.
One employee recounted: “In here was like a wildfire. The lines were long and we were cashing for hours.
"I really don’t see the reason for what caused this rush to supermarkets, because this can generate an alarm that is unjustified.”
The mad rush was also observed at View Port Supermarket in Scarborough where customers were depleting stocks of cleaning agents.
Chaotic scenes were reported at Cost Cutters supermarket and a number of smaller outlets as people stocked up in case of food and other shortages.
One shopper said, “Panic buying is an inconvenience to other customers, people need to remain calm.
“Is it that people think that supply will run out… this is beyond acceptable. The aisles are nearing empty – rice, flour, sugar, Clorox wipes, and other disinfectants, you name it.”
Another shopper said: “I didn’t pick up anything extra, but usually I am in and out in half an hour.
"I actually took two hours to get to the cashier. The cashier I went to said it has been insane all afternoon.
"I didn’t buy these to stock up but because I needed them. I was shocked but everyone just seems to be in a panic.”
By Friday afternoon there was no mad rush and lines were moving swiftly.
In a post on its Facebook page, the management of View Port Supermarket responded to Thursday's surge of shoppers saying, “Take a look at our updated policies and procedures for customers, staff, and suppliers to help keep everyone safe.”
The supermarket urged customers to not hoard items, expect a slightly longer wait times and keep sanitised.
“We appreciate the support of Tobago’s #1 supermarket but please only buy items in the required quantities. There may be longer wait times at our point-of-sale counters than usual as staff may need to take precautionary measures ever so often. Please be patient. Wash stations will be provided at our locations for public use. Additional measures are being put in place for sanitisation of shopping,” while informing that opening hours remain unchanged until further notice.
There was also a note for the supermarket’s staff titled "Keep it clean, an ounce of prevention and be understanding. Feeling ill? Let us know before coming in… communication is key. Try to assist all customers, especially the elderly. Refer all unhappy customers to your supervisor.”
There was also another note for suppliers and general information.
“There may be last-minute changes to our delivery schedules as we focus on critical stock.
“We will be stepping up our security presence to ensure a safe experience for everyone,” it read.