Hand sanitiser is flying off Tauranga shop shelves as people scurry to stock up on anti-bacterial products in the midst of the coronavirus global outbreak.
This comes as the fourth case of Covid-19 was confirmed in New Zealand yesterday.The Bay of Plenty had no confirmed cases at the time of publishing.
• 'Unbelievably rare': World's largest fish spotted in Tauranga waters
• Tauranga property management firm fined for 'withholding' $136,000 tenants' bonds
• Tauranga City Council passes draft 12.6 per cent rates increase
• Man charged with murder of two Tauranga men granted name suppression
Tauranga's Unichem Faulkners and Fifth Avenue pharmacy owner Stuart MacDonald said the store had been juggling lots of requests for hand sanitiser, face masks and immune-boosting health products.
"You're more likely to get a winning Lotto ticket than a face mask," he said.
The store had implemented a limit on the amount of hand sanitiser and other products customers could buy to help manage stocking levels.
He said it was a good opportunity to educate customers on what would be legitimately beneficial in keeping themselves well and what would not help.
For example, he had spotted people trying to sell dust masks on Trade Me at a hiked up price.
"Dust masks are for dust and not for preventing the spread of the virus," he said. "It's like putting diesel in a petrol car."
At the end of the day, practising good hygiene and regularly washing hands was the best way of preventing the spread of a virus.
"Hand sanitiser by itself is not going to prevent the spread of a virus."
He urged people to follow the latest advice from the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation.
Papamoa Super Seven co-owner Sveglana Singh said the store been in and out of stock for hand sanitiser and was unable to replenish supplies at a reasonable price.
"It's crazy. People are worried that it won't be available in the future because it is made in China," she said.
"I can see the stress in people's faces."
She said the store usually sourced hand sanitiser from a cleaning company, but the price had become "very expensive" and stock was very difficult to secure.
Customers were prepared to pay $19 for a 500ml bottle of hand sanitiser, she said.
Singh said the store was not looking to profiteer and the price was only so high because the business had to cover the cost of the goods and GST.
Aside from hand sanitiser, toilet paper and cleaning products, such as Janola, were also in high demand, she said.
Matua Dairy owner Dampal Singh said hand sanitiser was in such high demand that the store had completely sold out. Hand wash had been the next item to fly off the shelves in lieu of sanitiser.
Singh said this was highly unusual and "obviously due to coronavirus".
Mount Maunganui's Hot Spot Superette owner Alay Mehta said the dairy had run out of hand sanitiser and was unable to source more from his usual supermarket as it had also sold out.
Infectious diseases expert Dr Siouxsie Wiles discouraged people from panic buying and hoarding items as it meant vulnerable members of the community would have to go without.
This included people who were immunocompromised and needed to use hand sanitiser when out and about to keep them safe.
Health psychology professor Keith Petrie said people panicked as they thought they were at a higher level of personal risk than they actually were.
Spokespersons for Foodstuffs and Countdown both said there was significant global demand for hand sanitiser.
A Foodstuff's spokesperson said there was no estimated timeline of when stores would be restocked and customers were asked to shop as they normally would as stockpiling put stores under pressure and limited availability to other shoppers.
A Warehouse Group spokesperson said the company was "satisfied" with inventory levels and would continue to monitor the situation.