Panic buying Manila
Image Credit: AP

There’s no lockdown in Manila. Not yet. Or at least there's been nothing of that sort had declared (though it's being pushed to contain the local spread of COVID-19).

But this fact meant nothing among the wealthy and middle-income residents of the Philippine capital who cleaned supermarkets stalls of sanitation products on Wednesday, according to local media reports and eye-witnesses.

On Wednesday night, as the WHO declared the coronavirus a global "pandemic", there's been reports of price gouging in the Philippines.

On Wednesday night, as the WHO declared the coronavirus a global "pandemic", there's been reports of price gouging in the Philippines.

Products like disinfectants and rubbing alcohol are reportedly being sold at 4x the regular market price, but this could not be independently confirmed.

To this effect, the Department of Trade and Industry has urged the public to calm down and refrain from panic buying.

Already, a group of Filipino retailers has issued a warning against panic buying.

One trigger for panic buying came on Wednesday, when Filipino health authorities (Department of Health, DOH) reported a significantly high number of coronavirus cases, especially in certain suburbs of Manila.

On February 26, the WHO had lauded the Philippines for recording no new positive cases in the two weeks prior. On March 4, Philippine Health Secretry Francisco Duque said, "... in particular four weeks na tayo na wala pa tayong na-re-report ha wala tayong local transmission..."

But between March 5-11, 2020 the DOH reported 46 new COVID-19 cases, including local transmissions.

Appeals against panic buying had apparently fallen on deaf ears. Philippine Amalgamated Supermarkets Association President Steven Cua urged the public to avoid panic buying of sanitation supplies.

“Panic buying has no place in society. Once it happens, those who have money will be able to stock up and those who have less will not be able to buy the things they need,” Cua said in an interview with CNN Philippines.

Cua said there has been already some spike in the buying of masks, adding that eventually it will likely be the case for alcohol and other personal hygiene products.

“I’m sure manufacturers have increased their production knowing that the coronavirus isn’t going away soon. It’s just that if people start panic buying, everyone’s going to run out of supplies,” he stated.

“There’s no need to really panic. Yes, you just have to be careful, but there is no need to stock up because the hospitals themselves are already buying. Just buy what you need… twice what you need, but that’s about it,” Cua added.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte placed the country under a State of Public Health Emergency on Monday following the confirmation of its local transmission.