Dis-Chem Pharmacies will limit the number of items consumers can purchase in an effort to stop excessive purchasing and the stockpiling of goods due to the Covid-19 coronavirus.

With immediate effect, shoppers will be able to purchase a maximum of six units of any given item throughout Dis-Chem’s store network to minimise the impact of panic buying, it said in a statement on Thursday (19 March).

“We have been doing everything in our power to ensure that our warehouses have sufficient stock holdings and to replenish shelves daily and as quickly as possible,” said chief executive officer of Dis-Chem Pharmacies, Ivan Saltzman.

“While there have been numerous appeals to customers to only buy what they need in the wake of concerns over coronavirus-linked stockpiling, consumer demand remains high. Limits will ensure that customers can equitably obtain the necessary items regularly,” he said.

Dis-Chem said it is still seeing increased demand for certain household cleaning and personal hygiene products such as tissues, wipes, soaps, hand and surface sanitisers and general wellness products.

“We are working closely with suppliers to ensure the ready availability of additional stock in order to continue to meet the increased demand. We have a strong supply chain and logistics team and can maintain a steady supply to our stores nationwide,” said Saltzman.

South African retailers have also announced that they will be rationing certain products as consumers have not heeded the call to refrain from stockpiling.

Woolworths said it has seen an increase in sales of certain products and are working to meet the demand.

“To ensure enough products for everyone, we have set a limit of 5 units per product per customer. We will continue to replenish our products regularly,” it said.

“Demand is closely monitored and other limits may be applied where necessary,” Shoprite said.

Global cases of coronavirus have hit 245,749, with deaths passing the 10,000 mark (10,036). 88,441 have recovered, but 147,262 remain active, with 7,378 in critical condition. There are 150 confirmed cases in South Africa.

The Department of Trade and Industry meanwhile, has published a new gazette which introduces price controls to prevent sellers from taking advantage of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

In a briefing on Thursday (19 March), DTI minister Ebrahim Patel said that sellers would not be allowed to raise prices by more than the increases in the cost of inputs used to make them.

Suppliers must also ensure that good must be distributed equitably and preference to certain retailers cannot be given. They must also maintain adequate stocks of goods.

The gazette will also prevent medical companies from increasing prices related to the testing, prevention and treatment of the Covid-19 and its associated diseases.

The list of goods which will be price-controlled include:

  • Toilet paper;
  • Hand sanitiser;
  • Facial masks;
  • Disinfectants and cleaners;
  • Surgical gloves;
  • Surgical masks;
  • Disinfectant wipes;
  • Antiseptic liquids;
  • All-purpose cleaners;
  • Baby formula;
  • Disposable nappies;
  • Bleach;
  • Cooking oils;
  • Wheat flour;
  • Rice;
  • Maize meal;
  • Pasta;
  • Sugar;
  • Long-life milk;
  • Canned and frozen vegetables;
  • Canned, frozen and fresh meat, chicken or fish;
  • Bottled water.
The gazette states that resellers will face strict penalties if they are found to be price gouging. These include

A fine of up to R1 million,
A fine of up to 10% of a firm’s turnover.
Imprisonment not exceeding 12 months.