Bombi Mavundza/Business Insider South Africa
Customers at Dis-chem attempt to purchase hand sanitiser before it is even shelved. Bombi Mavundza/Business Insider South Africa
  • Hand sanitiser and disinfectant have started flying off South African retail shelves. 
  • We visited Dis-Chem, Clicks, MediRite and Pick n Pay stores in Johannesburg and Cape Town and found in most cases empty shelves.  
  • Toilet paper and canned food were stocked for now, but numbers are thinning.
  • For the latest case total, death toll, and travel information, see Coronavirus in South Africa.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za. 

Hand sanitiser and disinfectant have started flying off South African retail shelves as the fear of coronavirus sparks ‘panic buying’.

Since the Health Department confirmed the first case of Covid-19 in KwaZulu-Natal on Thursday, retailers Business Insider South Africa visited have been hit with increased demand for hygiene related stock.

We visited Dis-Chem, Clicks, MediRite, and Pick n Pay stores in Johannesburg and Cape Town and found in most cases empty shelves. Dozens of items from hand sanitiser to masks and disinfectant soap are gone. Some stores have given up completely and placed ‘out of stock’ stickers.

Photo Jay Caboz
Stock in a Clicks out of face masks, Cape Town. Photo Jay Caboz

One clerk in Cape Town told Business Insider that she was swarmed by customers before she could even take product out of the box on Thursday morning when the news broke. 

Another staff member told Business Insider that “these hand sanitisers would be the death of me” as people keep asking him where they can find them. 

A third clerk said they had been told they were only allowed to distribute six hand sanitisers per person, to allow stock for all its customers.

At a store in Cresta Mall, in Johannesburg, we heard customers complaining that staff were hiding masks, much to the chagrin of its store manager.

Panic-buying reflects global trends as coronavirus spreads. Cases of people stockpiling hand sanitiser and antiseptics have been reported in parts of the United States and the United Kingdom.  

Numbers were starting to look thin on toilet paper and canned food on Saturday morning. 

Read more: The SA coronavirus shopping list: here’s what sold out when Covid-19 hit elsewhere

There have also been nefarious price hikes, with one South African vender being caught-out attempting to sell a pack of 20 surgical masks for R2 000 on Takealot. Amid an outcry by Blogger Brent Lindeque, the online retailer pulled the item off its store, reported Eyewitness News.

The incident prompted pharmacy retailer Clicks to announce it would be holding all prices on hygiene products with immediate effect.

“We’ve seen an increase in sales of hygiene products, but we are keeping our prices unchanged,” says Rachel Wrigglesworth, Clicks Chief Commercial Officer. “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.”

Buying hand sanitiser is not a surefire method of preventing catching the virus.  As your first port of call the World Health Organisation, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the NICD recommend washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds – that’s singing happy birthday twice.  

Here is what we saw:


Dis-Chem in Cresta, Johannesburg:

As a box of hand santiser arrived it was grabbed by shoppers. 

Bombi Mavundza/Business Insider South Africa
Customers at Dis-chem attempt to purchase hand sanitiser before it is even shelved. Bombi Mavundza/Business Insider South Africa

Dischem, Clicks, Medi-rite
Sold out. Photo Mavundza/Business Insider South Africa

Masks and disinfectant were also sold out. 

Dischem, Clicks, Medi-rite
Dis-Chem customers looking for disinfectant and masks. Bombi Mavundza/Business Insider South Africa
Dischem, Clicks, Medi-rite
Masks and disinfectants are flying off shelves at Dischem. Bombi Mavundza/Business Insider South Africa


Clicks Cresta in Johannesburg:

Clicks. Photo Bombi Mavundza/Business Insider Sout
Clicks. Photo Bombi Mavundza/Business Insider South Africa


MediRite Northcliff Corner in Johannesburg: 

Bombi Mavundza/Business Insider South Africa
Hand sanitiser sold out at a MediRite pharmacy in Johannesburg. Photo Bombi Mavundza/Business Insider South Africa


Pick n Pay in Cresta, Johannesburg: 

No bulk buying, but stock was limited in the Pick n Pay we visited. 

Photo Bombi Mavundza/Business Insider South Africa
Limited stock in hand sanitiser and hand wash in Pick n Pay. Photo Bombi Mavundza/Business Insider South Africa


Clicks in Sea Point, Cape Town: 

This Clicks in Sea Point was out of stock of hand santiser, santiser wipes and soap and masks. It still had plenty of toilet paper. 

Cape Town Clicks santiser hand wipes out of stock. Photo Jay Caboz
Stock in a Clicks out of face masks, Cape Town. Photo Jay Caboz
A Clicks in Cape Town runs out of santiser soap. Photo Jay Caboz
Photo Jay Caboz
Clicks in Cape Town runs out of stock of hand santiser. Photo Jay Caboz


Dis-Chem in Willowbridge, Cape Town:

Shop assistants say people are buying in bulk.

Photo Estralita Moses.
Dis-Chem Willowbridge, Cape Town. Photo Estralita Moses.

They are out of masks and only getting in next week.

And out of hand sanitiser. 

Photo Estralita Moses.
Dis-Chem Willowbridge, Cape Town. Photo Estralita Moses.
Photo Estralita Moses.
Dis-Chem Willowbridge, Cape Town. Photo Estralita Moses.

But, they’ve just restocked disinfectant.

Photo Estralita Moses.
Dis-Chem Willowbridge, Cape Town. Photo Estralita Moses.


Pick n Pay in Willowbridge, Cape Town:

Stock was starting to thin out.  

Photo Estralita Moses.
Pick n Pay in Willowbridge, Cape Town. Photo Estralita Moses.
 Photo Estralita Moses.
Pick n Pay in Willowbridge, Cape Town. Photo Estralita Moses.

And they were out of handwash. 

Photo Estralita Moses.
Pick n Pay in Willowbridge, Cape Town. Photo Estralita Moses.


Latest update: Coronavirus in South Africa: 'I'm on the path to recovery,' says first patient

More on office hygiene - here.

More on hand hygiene - here.  

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