March 13, 2020 / 2:50 PM / 25 days ago

Dutch clear out supermarket shelves in coronavirus shopping spree

THE HAGUE, March 13 (Reuters) - Dutch shoppers stockpiled toilet paper, pasta and canned goods on Friday as worries about the coronavirus outbreak spread a day after the government imposed restrictions to curb the disease.

Shelves in supermarkets in major Dutch cities were emptying quickly hours after Dutch Prime Minister said there was “no need” to buy extra groceries.

On Thursday, the government announced a ban on gatherings of more than 100 people, told companies to encourage employees to work from home and said anyone with flu-like symptoms should stay home.

They were the most far-reaching measures yet in the Netherlands, where the number of recorded new coronavirus infections on Friday reached 804, with 10 deaths.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said a cashier at one supermarket in Amsterdam. “Even during the Christmas holidays I have never seen so many people with full shopping carts.”

In the past weeks the Netherlands had seen a slight uptick in the sale of hygiene products, soups and other non-perishables, but the government move was met with panic buying.

People were also buying cleaning products, paracetamol, flour and hand disinfectants, which were selling out.

“They just pulled the toilet paper right off my trolley and I saw a customer take 12 bags of flour,” a 16-year-old stocking shelves at a supermarket in Utrecht said.

Pictures of empty shelves and overflowing trolleys were being shared on Dutch social media under the hashtag “hamsteren” or “hoarding”.

“There is enough food and you can just shop as usual every day,” Marc Jansen of Dutch Food Retail Association CBL, told NOS news. He said there are no food shortages and supermarkets are being resupplied as usual. (Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg in The Hague and Anthony Deutsch in Amsterdam; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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