Residents were filling shopping carts and baskets with toilet tissue, cleaning products and cases of water at local stores Thursday after the World Health Organization designated the coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic, all this ahead of the government announcing later in the day that Cayman had its first confirmed case of coronavirus.

Kirk Market’s parking lot was packed, with drivers circling as they looked for empty spots, while others loaded up their trunks with their purchases.

Employees in the store were pushing around trolleys stacked high with cases of water to replenish the empty shelves.

A woman outside of the supermarket, who did not want to give her name, said there was “madness” going on in the store, with people fighting over water and grabbing up disinfectants.

“I don’t understand why people are panic buying; it is making it hard to just buy products for personal use because of the hoarding of supplies that people are trying to buy,” she said.

At Cost-U-Less, there were similar scenes. People in the parking lot, on their lunch breaks, were shoving rolls of toilet tissue into their car trunks.

A shopping cart showing four cases of water was one among many at Cost U Less from consumers panic buying on Thursday, 12 Mar.-Photo: Stephen Clarke

Inside the store, almost every person waiting on the long check-out lines was purchasing bulk packages of cleaning supplies or other household products. A woman outside the store joked that she was going to “buy all the plungers for when people’s toilets get clogged, because I don’t know where they are all going with that much toilet tissue”.

Residents on Cayman Brac told the Cayman Compass that they are buying supplies as if they were preparing for a hurricane.

To dispel rumours of supply shortages, Hazard Management Cayman Islands confirmed Wednesday that freighter carrying food and household products will continue to arrive as normal.

Simon Boxall, deputy director of Hazard Management, said that panic buying is not necessary and the supply of goods remains “strong and steady”.

Port Authority Director Joseph Woods said four cargo ships are due to arrive in the Cayman Islands over the next few days.

“The cargo ships are operating on schedule. We have two tonight [Thursday] and one each on Saturday and Sunday nights,” Woods said.

In addition to cleaning supplies and toilet paper, consumers have been snapping up tissues, hand sanitiser, and canned foods, temporarily leaving some shelves bare.

“Residents should be aware that stocks of almost all products are normal and ships with more products are en route as we speak,” Boxall said.

Cayman supermarkets and suppliers in the US have confirmed that goods will continue to come in as usual, although there was a decrease in the supply of masks and hand sanitisers.

“But even these items continue to arrive on island, though in slightly smaller quantities, because global demand is currently so high,” Boxall said.

Meanwhile, Foster’s issued a statement Thursday morning, assuring its customers that, despite being temporarily out of stock of certain high-demand items, the supermarket was working with suppliers to increase orders and buy what is available “while searching for new sources and product alternatives where needed”.

The company’s marketing senior manager, Julian Foster, said, “We are, however, experiencing some temporary shortages on health and sanitation products like face masks, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes and sprays, and isopropyl alcohol, among other products, which are in high demand around the world. During these unprecedented times, manufacturers and suppliers are working to ramp up production and ordering to ensure product is available.”

Due to the demand, he said, the company’s stores – five Foster’s Supermarket plus a standalone Priced Right and another within the West Bay supermarket – were limiting the number of certain products each customer can buy including disinfecting products, bleach and vinegar.

The limits, ranging from 1-4 products per person … are clearly marked on store shelves” and on the store’s website, the statement said. Updates to the product list will be made when changes occur and the information will be shared on social media, it added.

Woody Foster, the company’s managing director, said the stores were “fully stocked on food items and [we] have been assured that our suppliers, both locally and overseas, have product on hand to ship”.

He added, “Our warehouse is fully stocked, and while we may still see temporary out of stocks on products, we’ve increased orders where we need to on critical, shelf stable products.”

Full Coverage: Coronavirus

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