Residents yesterday swarmed grocery stores across New Providence in anticipation of and after the announcement of The Bahamas’ first confirmed case of COVID-19.
Dozens of people pushed carts filled to capacity through the crowded aisle of Xtra Value in Oakes Field.
They pushed past emptied shelves that once held hand sanitizer, chips, cleaning products and other items.
In one aisle, which was lined with generic bleach bottles, a man and woman argued over the last bottle of anti-bacterial kitchen cleaner on the shelf.
“Man, I just put those out there,” muttered an employee who was stocking the shelves.
The store was filled to the point where some patrons had to wait nearly an hour to be served.
“It took me about a half an hour just to be the second person at the cash register,” said Shandera Brown, the mother of a newborn.
She added, “It’s very crowded inside. It’s as crowded as it is during the hurricane time so you can see that something is happening.”
Asked if she was shopping as a result of COVID-19, Brown replied, “Yes, I’m very much concerned.”
She said she hopes the items that she picked up yesterday will last throughout the crisis.
“If not, we got to go back to the old days and get back to the farming,” Brown said.
Jermaine Beneby went to the grocery store twice yesterday, also preparing for a potential outbreak.
“This trolley isn’t really full,” he said.
“It was full this morning. It’s just the last bit of stuff I was just picking up just in case anything happens. I got to be concerned. You have to be concerned when you look and see what’s going on around the world.”
As of yesterday, there have been more than 153,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 110 countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
At least 5,700 people have died from the virus globally.
Acting Health Minister Jeffrey Lloyd said yesterday that a 61-year-old woman tested positive for COVID-19 at Princess Margaret Hospital, noting that she had not traveled outside The Bahamas within the last 20 days. It was news that led 72-year-old Harold Carter to stock his shelves.
“This is my coronavirus shopping,” said Carter, pointing to his full cart.
“I listened to the radio this morning and I saw the Ministry of Health’s [press conference] and then I went online and I saw the long lines of people trying to get back into the United States. And then, I went on and saw Walmart and they were showing aisle after aisle and all the shelves were empty.
“So, I said, ‘I better come and secure my family while I have the opportunity to.’”
He said he hopes the groceries he bought yesterday and the items he already had at home will last “at least a month”.
Last week, Super Value owner Rupert Roberts said he was “hoping for the best but planning for the worst” as panic shopping escalated.
He said Lysol spray products and hand sanitizers sold out at his food stores two weeks ago; and while more were being ordered because of the high demand due to the coronavirus, there is a regional supply shortage.
In a national address last night, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said there will be adequate food at food stores.
“There is no need for panic buying,” Minnis said.
“We are also going to enhance national security measures in order to maintain necessary law and order.”