| 12.2°C Belfast

Shoppers warned against stockpiling over coronavirus fears

Somes stores had to close after large queues formed outside following news that all schools and other public facilities will close for a fortnight.

Close

Minister for Business Heather Humphreys at a news conference at Government Buildings in Dublin (PA)

Minister for Business Heather Humphreys at a news conference at Government Buildings in Dublin (PA)

Minister for Business Heather Humphreys at a news conference at Government Buildings in Dublin (PA)

The Irish Government has warned shoppers against panic buying and stockpiling food and medical supplies over coronavirus fears.

In a strong message, Minister for Business Heather Humphreys said stockpiling products will cause further problems and she urged the public to remain calm.

In an attempt to allay the public’s fears, Ms Humphreys said retailers and supermarkets have assured her there is a sufficient supply chain.

The Taoiseach’s announcement that colleges, schools and other public facilities will close for two weeks from Thursday evening prompted huge queues at supermarkets across the country.

Throngs of crowds at major retailers sparked the closure of a number of stores.

Ms Humphreys said: “I met with retailers and I met with distributors, and they have assured me that there is a sufficient supply chain.

“If people go out and buy products that they don’t need to stockpile they’re going to cause a problem.

“I can say there is no need to do that, there is quite a sufficient amount in the supply chain.

“If people are stockpiling products that they are not going to use, that is going to cause a problem and we know that.

“Only this week and as late as yesterday evening I met one of the major distributors and they said very clearly to me that there is sufficient supply in the system.”

The minister also said imposing limits on the purchase of certain goods “is not something I think will be necessary”.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said: “People in our country are worried and they want to make provisions for themselves and for their families.

“We should all continue to buy what we need to provide for ourselves, families and loved ones. But we should not stockpile because that could have the unintended consequences of taking something that someone else may require.

“We’re better than that.”

Ms Humphreys added: “This is going to have a major impact on businesses, on our economy and our overriding concern has to be to protect people’s health and that takes precedence over everything as economies recover.

“Public health is the priority here and these are not decisions that are being made lightly.

“They are unprecedented but they are necessary, and of course our health is our wealth, that is an old saying that has never been more relevant today.”

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald has appealed for calm as it was announced on Thursday that schools, colleges and other public facilities in the Republic of Ireland will close for a fortnight amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

Speaking in Dublin on Thursday, she said: “The steps that have been announced by the Government are necessary and I think it is now very important that there is calm.

“People need to remember that the shops will be open tomorrow, that the shops will be fully stocked.

“These measures will no doubt disrupt people’s lives but it is necessary because we need to do everything we can to put people’s health and welfare first.

“We are very conscious now that as our schools, colleges close and large public gatherings will not be happening and that people’s jobs and livelihoods will be on the line. Comprehensive action needs to be taken to ensure that people’s incomes are supported and to ensure that people can still pay their rent and bills and put bread on the table.”

PA