Turks rush to purchase market goods over coronavirus fears

Following Turkey's Minister Fahrettin Koca's announcement of Turkey's first confirmed coronavirus case, consumers in Turkey have flocked to markets to purchase certain consumer goods, ignoring calls from health experts to not succumb to panic. Wet wipes, latex gloves, lemon-scented cologne and pasta are rapidly disappearing from shelves.

Şebnem Babat / DUVAR

Turkey's Minister Fahrettin Koca announced news of Turkey's first confirmed coronavirus case after midnight on Wednesday, following days of speculation as to when such news would arrive. In light of the official statement, consumers in Turkey have flocked to markets to purchase certain consumer goods, ignoring calls from health experts to not succumb to panic. 

On Wednesday at noon during a trip to a variety of supermarkets in Istanbul's busy Gültepe neighborhood, kitchen staples including flour, cooking oil, tomato paste and pasta had been emptied from the shelves and market employees had to continually restock them, working from the morning onward without a break. 

Wet wipes are also disappearing from shelves, and there has been major demand for liter bottles of lemon-scented cologne, with some marketgoers wanting to buy everything they have in stock only to be informed by employees that they are unable to do so for the sake of other customers. 

Lemon-scented cologne is popular in Turkey due to its pleasant scent and antiseptic properties, and is frequently distributed to customers leaving restaurants and to passengers on intercity buses. 

Lemon-scented cologne shelves are empty in all stores.

Another market employee said that they had never seen such rapid sales until today, adding that on a popular morning television program, the host issued a number of warnings regarding cleanliness. Following that announcement, within 15-20 minutes there was an explosion in sales. 

“Is pasta good to combat the virus?” 

Other high-selling items include vinegar and latex gloves. The gloves are to protect the virus, and the vinegar is for wiping out any traces of it. After calls from authorities for people not to leave their homes unless necessary, many people instead rushed to purchase dried nuts and fruits, with dried chickpeas, sunflower seeds, and mixed nuts flying off the shelves. 

Stores limited the sale of gloves and masks with maximum two pieces for each customer.

Some markets that offer online sales are maxed out until the weekend, and one of the biggest supermarket chain's smartphone application indicates that customers will only be able to make orders on Saturday at the earliest. 

The atmosphere is tense but customers in line haven't lost their sense of humor. While one customer  remarked that the market's stock needs to be refilled, another customer says “Why, is pasta good to combat the virus?”