Tue | Jun 2, 2020

Mayor calls COVID-19 profiteers ‘heartless and cruel’

Published:Monday | March 16, 2020 | 12:00 AMGareth Davis Sr/Gleaner Writer

PORT ANTONIO:

Mayor of Port Antonio Paul Thompson has urged Portlanders has condemned profiteering by merchants who have jacked up prices as a buying binge sweeps the parish capital. He also urged residents and other stakeholders to follow the safety protocols disseminated by the Ministry of Health and Wellness to combat the spread of COVID-19.

From as early as last Tuesday, when the Ministry of Health and Wellness revealed that there had been one confirmed case of the novel coronavirus on the island, residents have been scrambling to secure hand sanitiser, Lysol spray, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, Dettol, and other cleaning agents to mitigate against the virus.

Supermarkets, minimarts, wholesale stores, and other establishments virtually ran out of stock late last week. The problem was compounded by reports of price-gouging by business operators, which has forced consumers to dig deep into their pockets to purchase cleansers.

A small can of Lysol spray was seen priced at $2,000, more than three times the previous cost.

“There is always this trend that whenever there is a crisis, be it hurricane, wide-scale flooding, or otherwise, business operators tend to hike their prices, which is not good. Some persons can barely afford a Lysol spray at the original price of $600, or what it was, much less $2,000,” said Thompson, who chairs the Portland Municipal Corporation.

“I am appealing to business operators who are engaged in this kind of practice to desist as it is cruel and heartless.”

STATE OF PANIC

A state of panic has ensued among residents, especially those living in Port Antonio and its environs, which is being fuelled by rumours that several persons have been infected with the dreaded novel coronavirus.

He also warned mischief-makers to stop posting falsehoods on social media about persons living in Port Antonio contracting SARS-CoV-2.

“Stop this nonsense. You are merely creating panic among others,” the mayor said.

Paul ‘Bigga’ Young, a member of the Hospital Board of Health in the parish, said that shoppers and business people were overreacting to the global COVID-19 crisis.

“I have heard about the sudden doubling and, in some instances, tripling of prices as it relates to Lysol spray and hand sanitiser,” he said, admitting that he had not personally witnessed unfair pricing.

Young called for the authorities, including the Consumer Affairs Commission, to probe pricing in the Portland capital.