By: KIERAN ANDREW KHAN  |   March 20th, 2020

Supermarket President Advocates For Personal Responsibility

With the numbers of locals infected by COVID-19 climbing, consumers have been caught in a unique area of uncertainty – trapped between panic and preparation. This has been evidenced by the large numbers of persons flocking to supermarkets in the last week. WW spoke with President of The Supermarkets Association of Trinidad and Tobago (SATT) to assess where these retail stores and are and how they are coping with the global pandemic. 

According to Mr. Rajiv Diptee, President of SATT, supermarkets are working closely to identify shortfalls in the trade following panic buying spanning the last few days which wiped out a spread of cleaning supplies, toiletries and disinfectants. He details further: “We are working closely with the business and manufacturing subcommittee established by the Prime Minister to ensure a core food basket list of items receives consideration for foreign exchange allocation in the short to medium term – that is to say, over the next 3 – 6 months. This will be to ensure the nation’s food security during the COVID-19 crisis.” 

While consumers envision scarcity, he reveals that the opposite is true. “Though the logistical challenges of trade route disruptions have come into play worldwide, we have sought alternatives along the supply chain as well as local supply to meet our customers’ demand. There is no need to panic buy,” he elaborates. 

It has been a week of new challenges for the sector. “We have been enacting the advisories from the Ministry of Health where protocols are concerned. That is – ensuring our staff wear gloves, wash hands frequently and practice social distancing with merchandisers, customers and all interactions to focus on preventative measures.” The organisation has been extremely proactive in keeping consumers updated too – by numerous press releases on their social media channels and through several media engagements. “Various stores have similar policies in place where orders can be made via online portals, WhatsApp and email to facilitate in particular elderly and vulnerable populations that may be at risk. It is paramount that members of the public engage rationally in their visits to the supermarkets as it is still a new and unprecedented crisis in T&T with the narrative changing daily. Some stores are also doing deliveries and also exploring other means of distancing transactions including curb-side pickup. It will take some time to set in motion, however as Trinidadians are traditionally set in their shopping behaviours and patterns.”

In closing, he advocates for consumers to heed closely to WHO and the Ministry of Health protocols to ensure their own safety. “Practise social distancing, wash hands frequently as some stores have provided sinks for this and use an alcohol based sanitizer on your hands. Also if you can limit trips to the supermarket to limit the exposure of persons to the possibility of infection. Allow us to assist where our support services enable allow you to pickup without engaging wider crowds. The Supermarket Association is presently assisting all its members to come up with strategies to enact these measures and is also liaising directly with the business and manufacturing Committee of the Ministry of Trade. We are working assiduously to cater for the nation’s food security in this time of crisis.” 

He reiterates the Prime Minister’s call for personal responsibility. “Ensure that you have your own means of sanitation by way of hand sanitisers and tissues as supplies are in some cases too low for some stores to provide on an ongoing basis,” he adds.