Hand sanitiser has been flying off Rotorua shop shelves as people to scurry to stock up on anti-bacterial products.
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This comes as four cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in New Zealand as of yesterday afternoon.No cases have been confirmed in the Bay of Plenty area at the time of publishing.
Ngapuna Dairy owner, Vimesh Kumar, said the shop ran out of hand sanitiser about two weeks ago and had been unable to source more from their Auckland supplier.
Customers were opting to buy whatever other anti-bacterial products, such as hand wash, they could get their hands on in lieu of hand sanitiser.
He said people seemed alarmed by the virus.
"There's lots of tension and paranoia."
Rotorua Life Pharmacy owner, and pharmacist Brett Fordyce, said hand sanitiser, along with vitamin C and other immune-boosting products, had been in hot demand.
People had also started to inquire early about the influenza vaccine, which was not available until April.
He said suppliers were dipping into their winter stock and using costly air freight to transport goods from overseas, meaning prices here would creep up.
He said the pharmacy was using social media to notify customers of what products the shop had in-store.
"We're trying to anticipate what people are after."
Rotorua central's Dianne Dairy and Deli owner, Sukhjit Singh, also said the store had run out of hand sanitiser, as had the supermarkets the store sourced it from.
Tauranga's Unichem Faulkners and Fifth Avenue pharmacy owner, Stuart MacDonald, said the store had been juggling lots of requests for hand sanitiser, facemasks 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 stocks.
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 dusk 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.
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 sure 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 a significant global demand for hand sanitiser.
Foodstuffs' 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.