Panic-buying hits Sabah after first coronavirus case in the state

In a photo taken on Feb 13, 2020, a man purchases a protective face mask, amid fears over the spread of the coronavirus, in Kuala Lumpur. PHOTO: AFP

KOTA KINABALU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - After Sabah's first coronavirus case involving a person in Tawau was announced, many have started to stock up on essentials such as rice, cooking oil and soap.

This was seen in various supermarkets around the city, with the cashiers saying that the rush to buy food started even before the official announcement was made on Thursday (March 12).

Some people even reportedly stock up on goods the moment positive cases were confirmed in other parts of Malaysia.

A housewife, who did not want to be named, said looking at the global news and how fast the virus spreads, she did not want to take chances and have started stocking up essentials and even some medicine since February.

Families from overseas have also called relatives in Sabah, advising them to stock up.

"My uncle in Hong Kong called to ask about our situation here and told us to stock up some food as the situation in China was bad, and it would eventually get worse here too," said a typist in Penampang.

Another, whose father works in Indonesia, said he called immediately after the news of the positive Tawau case broke.

"He said it would be wise to start stocking up food and basic necessities as this pandemic is showing no signs of slowing down," said the clerk from Luyang.

Kinabalu MP Chan Foong Hin expects the number of cases to go up, given the way the virus is spreading worldwide.

He urged the public to keep calm, not panic and instead focus on maintaining a high hygiene level and to wash their hands more frequently.

He said people should start practising social distancing and to refrain from participating in any public programmes unless it was truly necessary.

"Always rely on official announcements and have faith in our authorities," Mr Chan said, adding that everyone must act fast to help prevent the spread of Covid-19 as it only took one week for Italy to reach 10,000 cases.

Sabah Health and People's Wellbeing Minister Frankie Poon said health officials are still in a meeting trying to come up with the best plan and measures to curb the spread of the virus.

Meanwhile, in the federal territory of Labuan, various government agencies have taken steps to disinfect their offices and premises following the return of over 50 people from a religious gathering at a mosque in Kuala Lumpur recently.

Labuan MP Rozman Isli said two days ago that the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) office was closed for disinfection.

"This is because one of its employees and maybe others had contact with those who returned from the religious gathering," he said.

Apart from the EPF, the Labuan Immigration office has also been shut down for the day for similar cleaning and disinfection purposes.

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It is learnt that at least 500 people from Sabah attended the religious event on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.

Health officials have called for these people to get themselves screened especially if they start to show symptoms. Those without symptoms are advised to self-quarantine for at least 14 days.

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