After two ministers today (Saturday) announced a lockdown to commence from Monday, people in the city have begun panic buying. Shoppers are thronging the markets to stock up on essentials.
Minister for road transport and bridges Obaidul Quader on Saturday morning first broke the news of the lockdown. After that, state minister for public administration Farhad Hossain at 12:30pm announced the decision to enforce a lockdown. The markets began to teem with crowds after 2:00pm.
The three large markets of the capital city – Mohammedpur Town Hall, Hatirpool and Karwan Bazar – saw huge crowds from the afternoon. Most people were buying essentials such as rice, lentils, oil, onions and potatoes.
At around 2:15pm, a large number of cars were seen lined up on either side of Mohammedpur Town Hall kitchen market, along Sher Shah Suri Road and Shahjahan Road. The traders said normally the market is not so crowded in the afternoon. The shoppers had rushed to buy essentials upon hearing of the lockdown. Some of the shoppers and shopkeepers, however, said that another reason for the crowds was that it was the first Saturday of the month and also that Ramadan would begin in the coming week. So people were doing their monthly shopping, and shopping for Ramadan.
One of the shoppers, Javed Hossain, had a long list and his driver was carrying two shopping bags. He told Prothom Alo, “I did my Ramadan shopping on Friday, but I’ve come to do some extra shopping because of the lockdown.”
Resident of Shyamoli, Masudul Karim, was returning home when he heard of the lockdown and stopped off to buy lentils, onions, potatoes and vegetables. After all, he said, it was not certain how long the lockdown would last. Also, at these times it was best to come to the market as least as possible. “That’s why I have shopped as much as I could,” he said.
Government offices in Karwan Bazar are closed on Saturday, but the crowds in the market were more than usual on holidays. Many were stopping their cars to do some shopping. Jamal Hossain, one such person from Mohammadpur, said he was buying a bit extra to avoid coming repeatedly to the market while coronavirus was spreading increasingly.
It took half a hour through the crowds to reach Hatirpool kitchen market by motorbike from Eastern Mullika. At 4:15pm there were crowds in front of the grocery stores at this market too. The shopkeepers were seen busy serving the burgeoning number of customers.
The first coronavirus case in the country was detected on 8 March. Then on 26 March a general holiday was declared. Then too, before the holiday, crowds had thronged the markets. Prices of essentials had shot up. This year the price of rice, lentils, oil, sugar and other essentials are higher than before.
However, a trader at the Hatirpool market, Mozammel Huq, said that there was no shortage in supply of rice, lentils, oil, onions and other essentials. He advised consumers against panicking.
*This report appeared in the online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ayesha Kabir