Coronavirus case in SA sparks run on hand sanitiser, wipes and liquid hand soap

By Ziyanda Mgandela and Tanya Waterworth Time of article published Mar 7, 2020

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Pharmacies and stores have run out of hand sanitiser and face masks in the wake of the first confirmed coronavirus - Covid-19 - case in KwaZulu-Natal.

On Friday, hand sanitiser, hand wipes and liquid hand soap were sold out at stores, including Clicks, Dis-Chem and Shoprite.

Tom Mvuyane bought the last box of hand wipes on the shelf at a Clicks store.

He said news of the virus case in the province had everyone worried and fearing for their lives, saying the threat was serious and the virus was now “our new reality”.

“Anyone who doesn’t take this seriously is taking their life for granted.”

He said people should be educated about the virus and advised on how to protect themselves from it.

Sandy Deolarain was at the same store and found shelves empty.

She said she wasn’t panicked, but wanted to take precautions and protect herself.

“We still have to go to work, go shopping and meet people, so we don’t know who might have it. It’s best to be safe.”.

Pam Samuels went to a Shoprite branch, where she also found empty shelves.

Samuels said she had thought the virus wouldn’t reach South Africa but now that it had, she worried about her family abroad. Her son and grandchildren lived in Australia, and they were expected to visit her at the end of the month.

“I don’t know if they will be allowed inside the country; most countries seem to have strict restrictions on air travel now, which is sensible. All we can do now is buy hand sanitisers and masks, but it looks like stores are running out.”

Clicks chief commercial officer Rachel Wrigglesworth said there had been an increase in sales of face masks and all hand sanitisers, adding that stores were continuously replenished with new stock.

“We are working hard to meet the surge in demand and are putting in place additional measures to ensure that shelves are restocked as quickly as possible.”

The group had introduced daily training for staff and pharmacy managers on virus awareness and hygiene.

“We will be placing trolley wipes and hand sanitisers at the front of stores and in the pharmacy for customers, have increased the cleaning frequency of our stores, and are encouraging staff to wash their hands more regularly,” Wrigglesworth said.

Rishqa Marsh, 26 from Bayview. Video: Tracey Adams/African News Agency

After efforts to contact Dis-Chem management proved fruitless, Independent Media spoke to an employee who wished to remain anonymous.

The Dis-Chem store at the Overport shopping centre was also experiencing shortages, the employee said, adding that customers were taking hand sanitisers and wipes from trollies being used to move the products to shelves; the trollies were emptied before they even reached the shelves.

Yesterday, Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) said with the first confirmed case, measures put in place at South African ports, as points of entry, would be continually reviewed, while a comprehensive action plan was in place to deal with the virus.

Captain Dennis Mqadi, TNPA executive manager for safety, health and environment and regulatory oversight, said: “The risk of Covid-19 cases entering via our seaports is lower than it is via our airports, because of the long periods that vessels spend at sea en route to South Africa.

“This is usually longer than the typical incubation of and quarantine period for the virus.

“Our trade routes place South Africa outside of the high-risk time frame for vessels that may have cases aboard.

“We will remain alert as possible, noting that the virus is spreading globally. To date we have had no suspected cases on board any vessels arriving in our ports,” said Mqadi.

He confirmed all foreign vessels entering South African ports had to receive free pratique (a clean bill of health) from Port Health Services, and details of the previous 10 ports of call had to be recorded.

“In particular, all vessels that have been at sea for less than 14 days will not be granted free pratique, taking into account the typical incubation period and quarantine period for the virus,” said Mqadi, adding that vessels at sea for more than 14 days would be granted free pratique as normal by Port Health.

Port Health would conduct screenings if there was a suspected case before the arrival of any vessel in South African waters. Once a vessel was issued with free pratique, the crew would be permitted to go ashore.

Protective measures, including the use of disposable gloves and masks, had been put in place for TNPA staff who interacted with vessels’ crews.

In Durban, the Catholic Church’s leaders issued a statement recommending safety steps. These include:

1. Removal of Holy water fonts (leave empty).

2. Shaking/holding hands during the liturgy (especially the sign of peace and during the Our Father) is prohibited.

3. Holy Communion to be distributed on hand only, unless where on the tongue is necessary.

4. Hand sanitisers for clergy before and after Holy Communion.

5. No Precious Blood will be distributed from the chalice, except for the priest.

These should be implemented with immediate effect.

Independent on Saturday

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