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Hungarians Emptying Shelves of Supermarkets Although No Coranavirus Case Confirmed in Country

Fanni Kaszás 2020.02.27.

Although there are no confirmed cases of the Chinese coronavirus in Hungary yet, and only two Hungarian citizens are infected, both abroad in Japan and Austria, Hungarians have started to accumulate food with long shelf lives, such as rice, pasta, flour, and sugar as well as canned goods in fear of the spread of the disease, which has resulted in empty shelves in some supermarkets and stores. 

Aldi in Gödöllő (photo: Hungary Today)

By Wednesday, the situation had quickly escalated and in many supermarkets there were as many people as before public holidays or Christmas, with long queues at the counters, and the shelves were also emptied, mainly in the durable goods aisles. There is no panic yet, but more and more people think they are waiting a bit more calmly for the potential appearance of the coronavirus in Hungary after purchasing enough durable foods for a quarantine period of two weeks.

Aldi in Gödöllő (photo: Hungary Today)

Most stores were out of products by the evening hours. People had been looking in vain for items such as pasta or canned foods, but they were also short on supplies of soap, oil, and flour. At the cashier’s, there were hour-long queues at some locations, especially in the evening, after working hours.

Hour-long queues in the supermarkets. (photo: Csaba Lukács/Magyar Hang)

They mostly fear that some areas in Hungary will be blocked or quarantined due to the spread of the virus and they would like to be prepared for a longer period without an opportunity to shop.

photo: Csaba Lukács/Magyar Hang

In cosmetic shops, such as in DM and Rossmann, the process already started weeks before, and now people cannot find a hand sanitizer at all. According to one of the store’s sellers, DM is already struggling with a nationwide shortage, and even if new supplies arrives, it only lasts for a short period: “The panic broke out a few days ago, and since then they have taken the hand sanitizers within half an hour, buying them in bulk.”

DM in Gödöllő ran out of hand sanitizers. (photo: Hungary Today)

According to data from the National Trade Association (OKSZ), the demand for durable food has really increased in the last 24 hours. However, their announcement states that their member companies (such as Aldi, Auchan, Lidl, Metro, Penny Market, Spar, and Tesco) are able to guarantee security of supply and do not expect shortages due to the current increase in demand for durable foods. They added that unique cases presented in the media, as well as shopping sample lists may make less well-informed shoppers unnecessarily store up long shelf-life goods, which will also “stretch the consumers’ household budget at the end of the month.” The OKSZ said that supermarkets keep refilling shelves, but it is possible – only for shorter periods of time – that they can’t keep up with demand. However, they grant shoppers that they can handle it the same way they do every time more people are shopping, such as before Christmas holidays.

Aldi in Gödöllő (photo: Hungary Today)

Although at yesterday’s special press conference about the coronavirus, Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office Gulyás Gergely, admitted that chances are low that the country can avoid being affected by the coronavirus, but at the moment there are no confirmed cases in Hungary. Kinga Láng-Bognár, spokesperson for the operative team said at a press conference that the government and the operative team are both treating the situation as a priority. She emphasized that even if the virus appears in Hungary it does not mean that there is an epidemic, so there is no need to panic.

featured photo: Lidl in Budapest’s 18th District (photo: Hungary Today)