Hanoi ready to meet shopping surge over Covid-19 fears

By Anh Minh, Thi Ha, Tuan Dao   March 7, 2020 | 08:46 pm PT
Hanoi ready to meet shopping surge over Covid-19 fears
A crowded cashier counter at Coopmart Ha Dong supermarket in Hanoi on the morning of February 7, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Hue.
Big supermarkets in Hanoi have raised their volume of goods dramatically to meet Covid-19 induced demand in the city.

After authorities announced the first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus in the capital Friday, thousands of residents rushed to markets and supermarkets to stock up on supplies. The most popular items were dry food, instant noodles, cooking oil, rice and fresh meat.

Some big supermarkets in Hanoi told VnExpress on Saturday that there would be enough goods for the worried shoppers.

Nguyen Thi Phuong, deputy general director of Central Retail Group, said that because of concerns over the Covid-19 epidemic, the number of customers to the group’s outlets has spiked, leading to simultaneous shortage of different goods.

"Today, we have been working with suppliers to increase delivery frequency. Since the outbreak, the Central Retail food retail system has actively increased inventories by 3-4 times," Phuong said.

"With the initiative and efforts of supermarkets and suppliers, we expect in the next few weeks to have enough goods to meet customer needs," she added.

A spokesperson for Lottemart said they had prepared two backup plans for all scenarios. "All basic commodities are still quite plentiful. Dry goods in particular is plentiful in stock, still," he said.

Big C, run by Central Retail, said it has arranged more staff to work during the day and overtime at night. The supermarket also promised not to increase prices, especially of essential food products.

Duong Thi Thanh Tam, deputy general director of Vincommerce, owner of the VinMart & VinMart+ supermarket system, said the chain will respond to the rise in demand and not increase prices nationwide.

"Our suppliers will refill the stock continuously throughout the day, especially of essential commodities like clean meat and vegetables, instant noodles, rice, spices, hand sanitizers and soaps, and face masks," she said.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Industry and Trade advised people to stay calm and not panic over the virus. The ministry has directed goods distributors to increase supply and meet the needs of the people.

"Today supermarkets will receive goods from suppliers outside Hanoi to increase supply to the city," the spokesperson said Saturday.

Hanoi Party Committee Secretary Vuong Dinh Hue said at a meeting Saturday that the city has ample supplies to be able to meet its residents’ needs. "I hope people will stay calm. You should not rush to supermarkets to shop," he said.

Tran Phuong Lan, deputy director of Hanoi Department of Industry and Trade, said at another meeting Saturday: "Even if people buy 1.5 to 2 times more goods than usual, there will enough supply to meet their needs. Hanoi commits to make sure there is enough goods every day."

She also said that in February, Hanoi had devised a plan to ensure sufficient supply of goods. "Distribution outlets have increased the amount by 30 to 40 percent compared to the pre-novel coronavirus period." 

Her department has also prepared scenarios and plans to ensure there is sufficient supply, even if Hanoi reports 1,000 infections, Lan added.

At Hanoi's Coopmart Ha Dong supermarket at 9 a.m. Saturday, the fresh meat stall was already empty. The staff said they had received two shipments in the morning, but "every single product that came out of it was bought".

Meat, rice, and instant noodles were completely out of stock at the Aeon Mall Long Bien and Vinmart Cau Giay. Even traditional wet markets saw a significant increase in buyers Saturday morning.

Hong, a merchant selling pork at the Vinh Phuc market in Ba Dinh District, said that around 9 a.m., all the meat was sold out. She usually sells about two thirds of what she lays out only by noon.

"People bought so much today, I had to call my husband and son for help. The price is the same as usual, though, no increase," she said.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc told the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Hanoi People's Committee to formally request corporations, companies and food supply businesses to supply more goods to supermarkets and stores in the capital city.

The PM also instructed the Northern Food Corporation, DABACO Group and C.P Vietnam Livestock Joint Stock Company to provide enough rice and food for retailers in the city. He said the retail network should sell rice until 11 p.m. 

Vietnam confirmed its 17th infection case on Friday after 22 straight days without any new infection. The new patient was 26-year old Nguyen Hong Nhung in Hanoi who’d returned from Europe. She has been quarantined and is undergoing treatment at Campus No.2 of the Hanoi Central Hospital for Tropical Diseases.

The country has recorded five new infections since Friday. Other patients are a 27-year-old man returning to Vietnam from South Korea's Daegu City (18th patient), the personal chauffeur and an aunt of Nhung (19th and 20th) and a 61-year-old man who was on the same flight as Nhung (21st patient).

The 18th patient hails from northern Thai Binh Province and has been quarantined in Ninh Binh Province, northern Vietnam. The four remaining patients are all Hanoi residents.

All 16 persons confirmed with Covid-19 infections in Vietnam earlier had been discharged from hospitals.

The global death toll has reached nearly 3,600 in 102 countries and territories, mostly in mainland China (3,097), followed by Italy (233), Iran (145) and South Korea (50).]

Starting Saturday, everyone arriving in Vietnam is required to make health declarations.

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