Coronavirus: Panic buying of groceries before PM Modi’s address tonight

In the run-up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's address, citizens seem to have gone into a panic-buying mode, stocking up essential items and groceries

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is due to address the nation at 8 pm on Thursday night, as the number of COVID-19 or novel coronavirus cases continues to rise.

In the run-up to the address, citizens seem to have gone into a panic-buying mode, stocking up essential items and groceries. Sources within the Prime Minister’s Office have tried to assuage fears of any lockdown. Several media outlets have also been carrying the source-based information, but it has not done much to soothe the nerves on the ground. 

People could be seen stocking up two months worth of daily supplies from department stores on Thursday, across Delhi. Two small-business owners, who run grocery stores at South Delhi’s Alaknanda market, confirmed that they have seen “unprecedented sales” throughout the day. They did not wish to be identified nor were they comfortable in revealing the exact sales figures.

The panic seems to have been triggered by a WhatsApp forward which reads: “Hello Everyone! India would be heading for a nationwide lockdown from tonight 8PM onward.  (The) Prime Minister will give the speech today. So please be prepared!”

The impact of the panic has not just affected offline stores but online grocers like Big Basket and Grofers too, who have run out of most items. In fact, this writer had placed an order for groceries on Big Basket on Wednesday, but received a call today from the online grocer that it is being “forced to cancel the order due to operational issues”. 

Across the world, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has killed over 9,000 people and infected 2,27,495, according to Worldometer, a website that tracks real-time population data. In India, it has taken four lives, infecting more than 170 people.

On Wednesday, 66 representatives of the Indian startup ecosystem, including many founders and investors, sent a petition to the government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, appealing for a “strict lockdown” and imposition of Section 144 across major cities in India by this week. They urged the lockdown to be placed by March 20 to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus. Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) prohibits the assembly of five or more people.

(Edited by Kanishk Singh)