A sign at a drugstore in Denpasar, Bali, informing customers that facemasks and antiseptic liquid have run out. (Antara Photo/Nyoman Hendra Wibowo)

Gov't Should Intervene If Coronavirus-Triggered Panic Buying Continues: Expert

BY :DIANA MARISKA

MARCH 04, 2020

Jakarta. If Indonesians continue to rush supermarkets for essentials as fears of a widespread coronavirus outbreak grip the country, the government might be needed to step in to limit individual purchases, experts say.

Amanda White, a lecturer at the University of Technology Sydney's Business School, said limiting the number of items each customer is allowed to buy will prevent basic supplies from flying out of supermarket shelves.

"Obviously, you don't want riots in shopping centers, so it's [limiting individual purchases] a possibility. For example, if you have a young child, you need to buy baby formula, then maybe that's where we need to consider a limit of how much people can buy," White told the Jakarta Globe on Wednesday.

White said people hoarding facemasks could potentially cause an even bigger problem when people who are actually sick and need them, could not get them.

"One of the risks of running out of masks [is that] the people who actually get the virus, who need to wear a mask to protect others, may not be able to. So everybody just needs to be sensible in this aspect," White said.

Educating the public, she continued, is actually the most efficient and effective thing that the government can do to calm the public.

Ensuring that people are well-informed on what precautions to take and what to do when they start feeling unwell is the key for everyone.

However, if the panic buying continues and supplies are running out, the government should work with businesses to stabilize the market, including by limiting purchases.

"Businesses and the government need to work together. What we're seeing now is panic purchasing of goods and items [that people think they need during an outbreak]. Businesses need to tell the government what people are buying up," White said.

On Tuesday, the Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, Mahfud M.D., said President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and his ministers had prepared measures to stop panic buying once they deem it necessary for the government to step in.

The minister also said that stocks of basic supplies in Indonesia are still sufficient so people have no need to worry.

Mahfud also confirmed the government is ready and willing to deal with the novel coronavirus outbreak according to standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

"As the president has said before, people don't need to worry. We are prepared to deal with the Covid-19 outbreak and our logistics supply is not in danger. In some places, people have been stocking up on instant noodles and cooking oil, but there's enough of those to go around. The police have been instructed to prevent any rush on essentials," the minister said.

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