KUALA LUMPUR: Unusually big crowds and long queues were seen in supermarkets here and two other cities following sharp increases in the number of Covid-19 cases in the country.
At two supermarkets here, shoppers were snapping up pasta, canned food and toilet paper.
In another city, surveys by the New Straits Times at supermarkets revealed that rice, cooking oil and instant noodles were flying off the shelves.
There were also problems in obtaining face masks and hand sanitisers in another city.
Deela Shaari, 34, who was doing her grocery shopping at Teng Mini Market Centre (TMC) in Bangsar here, said she was shocked to see panic buying.
“I did not expect people to be this panicked. They were clearing out some shelves. I’ve never seen anything like this.
“Though I am aware of the increase in Covid-19 cases, I can only prepare in whatever way I can.
“We should update ourselves with information and not trust rumours,” said the 34-year-old manager in the corporate sector.
Nurse Safura Iffah, 24, who shopped at Village Grocer, Bangsar Village, said she could not help but to panic when seeing others emptying the shelves.
“It is up to people on what they are doing. If they feel anxious and want to stock up on their groceries, we can’t do anything,” she said, while hoping the panic would subside soon.
At a supermarket in Cheras, a shopper said shelves with fresh produce, such onions and vegetables, were cleared by 4pm on Sunday.
“Some shelves are bare. It’s not a full-blown panic buying yet, but it is getting there,” said a shopper.
In Ipoh, food items such as canned food, rice, cooking oil and instant noodles had begun flying off the shelves in supermarkets in Klebang and Meru.
A housewife said she needed to prepare for the worst-case scenario.
“I need to be prepared. We never know what will happen. A sharp increase of positive cases could happen just like in Spain or Italy.
“I have read how fast the virus spreads and I believe we must be ready for the worse.
“I have started stocking up on essentials since last week,” she said.
Kindergarten teacher, Rafidah Ismail, 38, was worried that certain food items would run out of stock.
“I don’t think people need to panic yet. But I’m worried supermarkets will run out of food.”
Checks at supermarkets here showed that staff were re-stocking instant noodles.
In Kuantan, checks at supermarkets, pharmacies and convenience stores revealed that the supply of face masks and hand sanitiser were running low.
Pahang Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry enforcement chief Ahmad Fitri Ali said there had been a sudden surge in demand for face masks and the ministry was doing all it could to ensure that there was sufficient supply.
He said the surgical mask manufacturers were trying to meet demand, but they could not set an exact time frame on when they could deliver the items.
“The face masks and hand sanitisers are selling fast and pharmacies cannot cater to those who want to buy in bulk. Some pharmacies are only selling face masks in small quantities (one or two pieces) to ensure that everyone can purchase it,” he said.
A pharmacist said most businesses had ordered new stocks of face masks, but the suppliers said they could only deliver by the middle of next month.
“At some pharmacies, customers are told to provide their contact details so that once the items arrive, they will be among the first to purchase it,” said the pharmacist.
Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry enforcement division director Datuk Iskandar Halim Sulaiman said there was no need for people to resort to panic buying as the current situation was under control.
“The government is doing its job. As long as there is no directive for a curfew, the country is at peace.
“You don’t need to buy a more-than-usual amount of groceries.
“All food have expiration dates, so buying more than what is needed will cause the food to expire and that’s wasteful.
“We don’t want to create other problems in future,” Iskandar told the NST.