Dhaka has been in the grip of panic buying for the last few days. The reason is quite obvious. It is no other emergency but coronavirus that has compelled people to go for procuring some of the most essentials for survival. They cannot be blamed for the anxiety shown over the spread of coronavirus like a curse in many parts of the planet. Even in Western countries where people usually are not misled by cheap rumours, were so panicked that toilet papers, sanitisers vanished in no time from the market because the public thought those commodities would be in short supply. Unconfirmed sources claim that the USA administration made a mess of things when they publicised that masks do not provide any protection to the deadly virus sensing that the protective gear would be short in supply. It feared of a panic buying of masks.
Here is an enemy that cannot be seen but the havoc it wreaks is tragically evident. More importantly, there is no therapeutic cure nor is there an immunisation vaccine. The weaker the victim is the greater the chance of succumbing to it. Since it is highly infectious, the best prevention is to keep a patient in complete isolation. Unaffected healthy people must as well stay away from anyone suspected of catching the flu. Most sensible governments the world over have opted for total shutdown or lockdown in cities and towns at huge financial costs. The motto is - save life first, counting loss in business may wait in the face of corona attack.
Panic buying thus becomes incumbent on people so compelled to remain indoors. People in major cities and towns in Bangladesh are also fearing that such lockdown may be enforced so that their movement will be severely restricted. In that case they will not be allowed to come out and even if they are, there is little chance they will find supplies of the minimum victuals they will need for keeping their body and soul together. It is this fear that drives them to procure the bare minimum essentials for weeks or months.
However, a large segment of people mostly earning daily wages for survival of their families in cities and towns has no savings. These working class people were just preparing for the Ramzan and Eid bonanza. Middle class and rich people go on a spending spree at this time and the small shop-keepers, vendors, rickshaw-pullers and others doing menial works also earn more than they do at any other time of the year. Now in the face of the crunch time, salaried people and others with limited incomes will curtail their expenses on festival and instead save the money for an unpredictable eventuality. Luxury goods and gadgets considered a status symbol will definitely be dispensed with. Already electronic outlets, shoe companies and many such businesses have been feeling the pinch with their sales dropping drastically.
However, it is the poor and marginal people who will be most affected if they cannot come out and earn their daily wages. Big businesses and organisations may get their works done by instructing their staff to stay at home and perform the job from there but the poor have no such luxury. With no savings and no work how will they stay alive if there is a prolonged shutdown? This is an issue that the government should take into cognizance before the emergency becomes so compelling. Some of the working people are expected to go home but there are a lot more who have nowhere to go in their ancestral villages. Earning by this segment of people is witnessing a sharp fall and it will come to naught if there is a shutdown.