#COVID19: Panic Buying Defeats Social Distancing In Abuja

In some markets and shops visited by HumAngle, people could be seen hovering over each other to haggle for goods in preparation for COVID-19 lockdown.

Nigerians in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), on Monday, threw caution to the wind hours before the lockdown mandated to curb the spread of COVID-19. Shunning the need for social distancing, some citizens came out en masse, mingling with crowds, to stock their homes with essential items making it difficult to avoid body contact.

The panic buying is part of last-minute measures by Nigerians to cushion the effects of the lockdown of the FCT, Lagos, and Ogun states announced by President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday.

In some markets and shops visited by HumAngle, people could be seen hovering over each other to haggle for goods. At the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) Market, Lugbe, some shoppers were physically fighting over meat while others argued loudly over the last basket of peppers.

The case was not very different in other markets. At one filling station in Gwarimpa, the attendants unsuccessfully tried to get shoppers in line while they struggled to fill jerrycans with fuel. The same struggle to practice social distancing was experienced at several ATMs where users had to compete with long queues.

Some respondents noted that while the need for urgency was understood, the time frame given to prepare for the lockdown was too short. The fear of not having enough food or petrol for the 14-day lockdown period made people brave queues and disregard directives from the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

The NCDC maintains global medical standards that at least six feet distance be maintained between people in public places. It also explained that COVID-19 can be spread through body fluids such as saliva and residue from coughs. All these were on the back burner as people struggled to shop.

Joseph Oladeinde, who watched the fight at the AMAC market from a safe distance expressed his fears to HumAngle that carriers of the virus might mix up with others in the market and spread it over the rancour.

He said, “It is amazing how many people did not come out today with gloves or face masks on. It is like the fight for food supplies has overtaken the need to be safe.

“I was at the bank earlier today and although they gave us sanitisers, the distance between us on the queue was not up to the recommended six feet. Hopefully, this short notice does not increase the number of cases we already have,” Oladeinde said.

Currently, Nigeria has 111 cases with two deaths recorded so far. The government on Monday announced that it is tracing 6,000 people with possible contact with carriers of the COVID-19 virus. There is some probability that some of these contacts were present in markets, filling stations and banks during the frenzy, thereby putting others at risk.

Tracy Onyetari told HumAngle that she panicked at the mall when the woman standing in front of her began to cough terribly. Given that they were standing too close to each other, Onyetari had to exit the queue until the woman stopped coughing.

She said, “We were standing way too close to each other for comfort. The mall tried to put some space but I could feel spit from this woman’s mouth on my skin.

“Maybe I was being hypersensitive but the fact that other people continued struggling to shop despite the risk made me worried. I guess food comes before medical safety.”

The lockdown in Lagos, Abuja, and Ogun will kick in at 11 pm on Monday. “All citizens in these areas are to stay in their homes. Travel to or from other states should be postponed. All businesses and offices within these locations should be fully closed during this period,” Buhari said in an address to the nation.

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Anita Eboigbe

Anita Eboigbe is a journalist and data analyst with nearly a decade of media and communications experience in Nigeria. She has expertise in human interest reporting, data reporting, interactive content development and media business management. Anita has written for several national and international publications with a focus on communication for development. She holds an honours degree in Mass Communication and several certifications in data analysis and data journalism.

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