Friday, March 20, 2020

THE people of Carlow were urged “to keep their nerve” following unprecedented scenes of panic-buying last week.

The announcement of the closure of schools on Thursday morning sparked a rush on supermarkets in the county, with people anxious to secure provisions, resulting in long queues that stretched way down the shopping aisles. Shelves were left temporarily bare, but thankfully, it was business as usual within 24 hours.

However, a spotlight has been cast on local supermarkets, which will be a vital resource to people in the weeks and possibly months ahead.

Speaking last Friday, Willie Rath, owner of Rath’s Londis, Pollerton Road, Carlow, said he had never seen anything like the scenes of last Thursday. There was a particular run on 20 to 30 specific items, including toilet rolls, rice, pasta, flour and canned foods.

“It had been business as usual until yesterday (Thursday), when there was bit of panic buying. We coped with that fairly well and now today things have calmed down and people realise we are going to keep the food chain going, so I don’t think the panic buying will continue.”

Mr Rath assured people there would be sufficient goods in the weeks ahead if people “keep their nerve”.

“We are determined to keep our service going that we have done for the last 35 years in every way we can. We have a proud record in our shop in Carlow and we do not intend on letting that slip easily.

“The staff are 100% behind it. It’s their neighbours and families that shop there. No-one wants any shop shutting. The whole thing is to keep their nerve and do what we are told.”

Mr Rath said repeat incidents of panic buying will upset the supply. He accepted there were supply problems with certain items like hand sanitisers but believed that would normalise in a few weeks. “The alternative is soap, which is every bit of good really,” he said.

There was anecdotal evidence of people buying up hand sanitisers to resell them, although Mr Rath was unaware of this.

At Aldi in Hanover last Thursday, a minimum of two hand soaps per person was being implemented. There were similarly hectic scenes in Lidl and in Fairgreen Shopping Centre on Thursday, but the situation returned to normal there, too.

Centre manager John Brophy said the realisation that children would be home for two weeks had sparked the rush, with people wising to do a weekly shop. He said the centre had contingency plans if things escalated, but it was business as normal at the moment.

“There is extra emphasis on cleaning and social distancing. That’s as far as it goes. If the virus turns up in Carlow, we will step up on those. You could see a situation where certain shops start to close, but we are not anticipating that at the moment,” said Mr Brophy.

Hand sanitisers have been placed strategically around the shopping centre, while cleaning has been upped. Promotional activity at Fairgreen has been cancelled and tables have been removed from the centre’s restaurant to facilitate social distancing. Teenagers often hang out in large groups at the centre and security staff were gently encouraging them and other large gatherings to keep a distance from one another.

Mr Brophy noted that people were touching elbows, but it was being done to an almost humorous extent.

“People are in good form,” said Mr Brophy. “The morbid Irish sense of humour has taken over! People are laughing about it as much as anything else.”

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By Michael Tracey
Contact Newsdesk: +353 59 9170100

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