[Image credit: Doctor Ngcobo/ Africa News Agency (ANA)]
When President Ramaphosa announced the national lockdown that will commence on Thursday at midnight, he urged South Africans not to respond to the news by panic buying.
He assured us that shops would remain open and that there would be no shortage of food and other supplies over the 21 days of isolation.
Regardless, much like the day after his speech declaring a national disaster, and indeed the reports of the first case of coronavirus in the country, people descended upon the shop en masse today to stockpile like the end of the world was coming.
If you’re watching all of this go down, you’re probably having flashbacks to the water crisis and people hitting each other in grocery aisles over bottled water.
City Press spoke to Professor Renata Schoeman, a psychiatrist and head of the MBA healthcare programme at the University of Stellenbosch Business School, to find out why we respond to a crisis in this way.
“Times of crisis are common, so are pandemics. Uncertainty and herd mentality are common during times of national crisis”.
“One big question now is why are people stockpiling toilet paper? It goes to that issue of control.“
“People misinterpret port controls to mean that no products will come into the country and the shelves will remain bare, so they want to be able to control at least one aspect of the crisis, which means securing things for themselves and their loved ones,” she said.
There are a number of things upping the anxiety in the country at the moment. Businesses are unsure of how all of this is going to affect them in the long run, we were already in a recession which means the economy was fragile before the pandemic reached us, and employees are concerned about their financial stability.
Schoeman has some advice for everyone going forward, that could help to stem the panic a little.
[She] advises that people try to stick to their normal routines as much as possible and, while gatherings are limited to 100 people, people can still go outside for walks to take breaks.
“Use technology to stay in touch with people – you can Skype or teleconference. Get off panic groups on social media that feed into fear. Be careful of exposing children to too much technology – stick to the usual one hour because overexposure can negatively impact on their mental health.”
I would assume she means that before Thursday at midnight, it’s worth going outside for a walk. Obviously, practice safe social distancing and don’t put yourself or others at risk whilst doing so.
Try to minimise your news intake to legitimate sources you can trust and don’t overdo it. Listening to or reading constant reports about the virus can cause anxiety and stress.
Then, take practical steps to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
Keep calm, and we’ll get through this.
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