Anxiety and fear over coronavirus has gripped the whole world after the highly contagious disease, known as COVID-19, was detected in about 80 countries. Following the declaration of World Health Organisation (WHO) that Nepal, too, is at a high risk of an outbreak of the virus, the Nepali people have grown panicky every passing day. The fearful people in the cities and towns have become anxious thinking once the COVID-19 strikes them, the whole distribution chain of essential goods and services would take a massive hit. As a result, people have been found hoarding essentials while the suppliers in the capital city and elsewhere have turned such a panicky situation into an opportune time for making quick bucks by cashing in on consumers’ growing trepidation about the disease.
People are seen making long lines for buying daily commodities such as cooking gas, kitchen items, medicines, face masks, hand sanitisers in large amount hoping they would not have to face a shortage of such items in case of an outbreak of the deadly virus in the country. Their assumption is that the supply chain of all goods, including essential items, would be disrupted once the country sees an outbreak of the virus. However, after the reports that suppliers have been cheating consumers by charging higher prices through their own artificial shortages and hoardings, the government authority has come to its action. The authority has issued strict warning that it would take action against suppliers if they sold essential goods and medicines at higher prices. It has also initiated action against many pharmacies that have sold face masks and hand sanitisers at higher prices.
To pacify the panicky people, the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies has declared that the country has enough stock of essentials for the next few months. The government has also asked the people not to hoard essential goods unnecessarily because it would ultimately create a shortage of goods and provide an opportunity to profit-seeking merchants to make money at the cost of nervous consumers. All these have been done to maintain the sound supply of essential goods and medicines. However, the highly-alarmed people appear to have not yet given up their habit of hoarding goods. Many stores and pharmacies in the cities have reported that they have actually run out of stocks of several items.
It is said that the government has failed to take decision at right times even as the fear over coronavirus swept the country following the WHO’s statement on COVID-19 situation. Now, people seem to be in no mood to stop buying goods. For the government authority, it seems that it is not enough to assuage the fear among people by making public the amount of essential goods available at its disposal. The authority needs to implement strong and practical measures aimed at fighting the disease once it breaks out here. These measures must be focused on winning the confidence of anxiety-ridden people. Unless the government takes such measures, consumers will not stop buying goods in unnecessary amount feeling that any system in the country is disrupted in no time if and when a major disaster strikes. We have witnessed it in the past and there is no question we will not witness in the future