People rush to stores in panic buying over virus fear

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People are emptying shelves in supermarkets in coronavirus-related panic buying amid the official confirmation of the first case in Turkey.

Pictures of empty shelves and long lines formed at supermarket cashiers have been circulating on social media.

People are also struggling to buy the Turkish cologne (kolonya) which contains 80 percent alcohol, which is believed to serve as an effective sanitizer, while prices of some disinfectant materials have skyrocketed.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced the first case of the novel coronavirus in Turkey early on March 11, while stressing that all precautionary measures were being taken.

However, in the following day people rushed to the supermarkets, fearing that the virus could spread.

“I have been working at supermarkets for a long time. What I witnessed today was quite different,” said one employee.

“One of our regular costumers stopped by. I know how much shopping he does usually. This time, he filled up the entire cart,” the employee recalled.

The customer bought mostly legumes and pasta, according to the supermarket staff.

“The customer claimed that what he was doing was only precautionary,” the staff added.

Another supermarket employee on the Asian side of Istanbul admitted that they are having problems refilling the empty shelves.

“I really do not understand those people,” he said. “There cannot possibly be food supply shortage in Turkey. But they still come to the supermarket out of fear and panic,” the staff added.

Customers, who had previously been pretty picky about the brands, now do not care what they are buying, the supermarket employee observed.

People mostly buy flour, pasta, toilet papers, paper towels and antibacterial soaps, according to the staff.

“They are in kind of a competition. We have enough supplies for all, I told them, but they did not listen,” the employee said.

Meanwhile, online sales have also exploded, rising as much as four to five times.

“Legume and cooking oil sales, particularly, soared 10 times,” said Öget Kantarcı, the general manager of online retailing company Gittigidiyor.

Brick and mortar retailers Migros and Caffefoursa also reported significant increase in their online sales.

Sanitizer prices up

People also rush to markets and grocery stores to buy kolonya. Even wholesale traders of this special item have run out of it. As demand for “kolonya” picked up its price jumped.

“I only found 4-5 bottles of kolonya. I would pay some 8-10 Turkish Liras for a bottle. Now, it is 15 liras,” said Hacı İlhan, who operates a supermarket in Istanbul’s Arnavutköy district.

Wholesalers say they cannot meet the immense demand.

“We made a whole year’s sale within the space of an hour,” said Murat Yılmaz, adding that prices have doubled.

Disinfectant products have also become more expensive. The price of a one-liter disinfectant agent was 42 liras at the end of February, however, 50 milliliters of the same product is sold for 90 liras, a staggering 4,185 percent increase.

Hurriyet Daily News

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