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Regulation of “Coronavirus- Panic Buying”

March 18, 2020

Introduction

Life always gives us the opportunity to learn, both in the good times and seemingly not so good times.

Amazingly, the lesson is better understood when a person’s life and that of close associates are the reference for the lesson being taught. Here is an insight into regulation of Coronavirus- Panic Buying.

The recent developments with the consistent spread of the pandemic popularly known as the Novel Corona Virus or COVID-19 has been met with insights by varied professionals, mainly health professionals. Popular amongst the trending discussions are the causes, symptoms and preventive measures against the coronavirus. Comparatively, little has been shared in assessing the actual and potential economic impact of coronavirus. It is at this point that Economics brings additional insight in managing the current pandemic and prescribing ways in dealing with the situation going forward. Following the pandemic outbreak, a key economic trend observed in countries with recorded cases include the shortage of certain commonplace goods. Common amongst these goods are sanitizers, toilet paper, maple syrup and cleaning supplies.

This article is not intended to give the array of goods to consider hoarding in these times or anticipate the next likely commodity to run into short supply. On the contrary, this article is meant to suggest approaches to curb a markets default tendency to buy based on fear, both from the individual as well as governments perspective.

Panic Buying and Coronavirus

Panic buying is a type of behaviour marked by rapid increases in purchase volume, typically leading to scarcity of the good and causing the price to increase. Explained in a simpler way, panic simply connotes sudden and uncontrollable fear. Panic buying therefore implies buying that is fuelled by intense fear. The coronavirus virus was first discovered in December-2019 in Wuhan, a port city in the central Hubei province of China. Since then, global statistics on coronavirus as at 18th March 2020 are as given in Table 1.0. From the proportional distribution in the table, out of a Total of the 198,361 reported cases of the virus, 42% have recovered and only 4% have died.

On the face value, the above statistics may not appear as dire. However, coupled with the ease with which the virus spreads, the situation becomes one of much concern. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the coronavirus mainly spreads through exposure to respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Additionally, it is possible to be infected by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching one’s mouth, nose or possibly eyes.  Given these circumstances, there have been global reported incidents of panic buying in an attempt to ensure tight sanitation measures to prevent contacting the virus. The trend of reported incidents suggests that countries with high number of coronavirus cases most likely have incidents of panic buying. These include China (80,894 Cases), Italy (31,506 Cases), United States (6,486 Cases), United Kingdom (1,950) and Canada (598).

Ghana’s Case

Ghana
as at 18th March 2020 reported 7 cases of the coronavirus infection, with no
deaths recorded. As comparatively marginal this number may be, the Government
of Ghana has been proactive in banning public gatherings including conferences,
workshops, funerals, festivals, political rallies and religious activities. However
positive these proactive measures may be, they have also sent tense signals
across the country adding to agitations and fears of the looming pandemic
danger.

These
reported cases, coupled with government’s interventions have sparked an
artificial demand for sanitizers leading to a nationwide shortage in the past
week. In extreme cases, the prices of hand sanitizers which previously sold for
as low as GHs10.00 (USD 0.89) are now selling for as high as GHs80.00 (USD 14.20).  This represents a whopping 800% increase in
price over a matter of days.

Anti-Panic Agenda

In
further pushing the proactive agenda; individuals, corporations and Governments
need to put key measures in place that allay fears, prevent shortages of goods in
addition to containing the spread of the virus.

Government

In
his 11th March 2020 address to the nation on the coronavirus virus outbreak,
President Nana Akufo-Addo mentioned “We must take advantage of this
crises to strengthen our domestic productive capacity and advance our
self-reliance and reduce our dependence on foreign imports. Necessity they say,
is the mother of invention”
In the event of sanitizer shortages such as
that being experienced in Ghana, government can take key steps to salvage the
situation. These desperate times certainly call for desperate measures.

One
of such steps is directing the production of local hand sanitizers and liquid
soaps by government vocational training institutions scattered across the
nation which include the National Vocational Training Institute (NVTI), Social
Welfare Vocational Training Centre and Opportunities Industrialization Centre
Ghana (OIC Ghana). This directive should be in coordination with the Food and
Drugs Authority (FDA) for the quick and legal provision of product licences,
after necessary tests are conducted on these locally produced hand sanitisers.
This will not only help solving the current shortage but will also give
consumers the assurance that this is a safe product for use as it would have
been tested and approved by the FDA.

A
recent case in point was in India, where the Gujarat Food and Drug Control Administration has approved 100 product licences for
hand sanitisers on a fast-track basis to ensure that there was no shortage of
these items in their market. According to the Commissioner of the authority,
100 licences have been given to around 40 manufacturers to make hand sanitisers
in the last one week alone.

Secondly,
there should be consistent public awareness campaign by Government institutions
such as the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) to tell consumers
not to buy in panic. The campaign should further stress cheaper precautionary
measures like building one’s immune system by eating fruits, and hand washing
with soap as against total dependence on an alcohol-based sanitiser as the
ultimate source to prevention.

Lastly,
the FDA or Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana (PSGH) should collaborate with the
police to raid pharmacies and shops that are hoarding sanitizers as well as
selling at outrageous prices all in a bid to make abnormal profits at the
expense of valuable lives.

Major Corporations

A
number of companies have undertaken to ration the commodities sold per person
in order to clamp down on panic buying and hoarding. For instance, Boots
Limited, a health and beauty retailer and pharmacy chain in the United Kingdom,
has enforced a limit of two units per customer on various sterilising products,
in response to the high volume of customers. Additionally, Aldi supermarket has
become the first supermarket to introduce across-the-board rationing, which
means customers can buy no more than four of any single grocery lines when they
visit a store. These are measures that can be adopted by renowned chemists and
pharmacies in Ghana mandated to look out for the interest and health of their
customers.

Individuals

Beyond governments and institutions,
individuals will always be the last resort to ensuring the right thing is done.
When an individual hoards cleaning and sterilizing products such as sanitizers,
to the detriment of others, the said individual rather faces greater risk of
being infected in the long run. All things being equal, the stock of sanitizers
will certainly be depleted at a point and one will eventually be exposed to
infected individuals.

Conclusion

It may seem like early days with just 7
reported cases of the coronavirus infection in Ghana. It is however never too
early or too late to allay the fears that come with times like these and better
equip individuals to fight this virus. Fear which fuels panic buying just makes
things worse in the long-run. In the words of writer William Shakespeare, “Cowards
die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once.”.

Author: George Ephraim Afotey Anang, FMVA

Author’s Bio: George Ephraim Afotey Anang, FMVA is a Financial Analyst and Consultant with top-notch experience in Financial Analysis, Investment Banking, Financial Advisory and Business Valuation. He holds a BSc in Banking and Finance, an MPhil in Finance, a Financial Modeling and Valuation Analyst Certification and is currently a CFA level 2 Candidate. For any comments to this article, kindly email georgeaanang@gmail.com.

The post Regulation of “Coronavirus- Panic Buying” appeared first on Ghana Talks Business.

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Source : African Media Agency (AMA)

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