Hand sanitiser and disinfectant have started flying off South African retail shelves as the fear of coronavirus sparks ‘panic buying’.

Since the Health Department confirmed the first case of Covid-19 in KwaZulu-Natal on Thursday, retailers Business Insider South Africa visited have been hit with increased demand for hygiene related stock.

We visited Dis-Chem, Clicks, MediRite, and Pick n Pay stores in Johannesburg and Cape Town and found in most cases empty shelves. Dozens of items from hand sanitiser to masks and disinfectant soap are gone. Some stores have given up completely and placed ‘out of stock’ stickers.

One clerk in Cape Town told Business Insider that she was swarmed by customers before she could even take product out of the box on Thursday morning when the news broke. 
Another staff member told Business Insider that “these hand sanitisers would be the death of me” as people keep asking him where they can find them. 
A third clerk said they had been told they were only allowed to distribute six hand sanitisers per person, to allow stock for all its customers.
At a store in Cresta Mall, in Johannesburg, we heard customers complaining that staff were hiding masks, much to the chagrin of its store manager.
Panic-buying reflects global trends as coronavirus spreads. Cases of people stockpiling hand sanitiser and antiseptics have been reported in parts of the United States and the United Kingdom.  
Numbers were starting to look thin on toilet paper and canned food on Saturday morning.