ATHENS – After a run that saw shoppers fill carts – often more than one – to the brim and standing a dozen-deep and more at cash registers with people stocking up over the COVID-19 Coronavirus, Greek supermarkets as of March 16 said they will set a limit on how many can be in a store, depending on its size.
Scenes the previous couple of days showed frantic crowds in close contact, side-by-side, despite warnings from health officials it wasn’t safe and that people should stay at least two meters apart from each other to prevent the spread of the disease as the number of cases hit 228 and the death toll rose to four.
Deputy Development Minister Nikos Papathanassis told TV station OPEN about the limit and said that to to further encourage people to stay home, supermarkets will be allowed to make deliveries on Sundays.
“There is enough sufficiency (in products) for three months. Citizens do not need to rush” to buy, Papathanassis said, adding that the government will be “relentless” in enforcing the law prohibiting certain businesses from opening or serving the public at their premises.
Greeks turned to online supermarkets as an alternative but those didn’t have the capacity to deal with a sudden crush that saw orders jump 300 percent, said Kathimerini, overwhelming them so much that deliveries could take a week instead of a day.
Most Greeks had still preferred to visit supermarkets instead of ordering online although the numbers switching to electronic shopping for food had been growing, but the COVID-19 crisis catching them by surprise as well.
The demand for storage space and delivery vehicles has soared among the five major online supermarkets, AB, Mymarket, Kritikos Easy, Caremarket and e-fresh with the newspaper reporting the long delays in getting goods to people.
More people are switching to e-shopping for food to avoid being in contact inside supermarkets after hordes swarmed them with people stocking up in anticipation they could be confined to their homes for days if not weeks.
Products that were flying off shelves that emptied included staples such as rice, orzo, legumes, pasta, coffee, sugar, cereals, canned goods as well as anti-bacterial wipes, hand sanitizers and with face masks now long gone.
E-market officials said their teams were abiding by hygiene measures set by the country’s Health Ministry to avoid contamination but they can make deliveries only to Greece’s capital as their services aren’t available elsewhere yet, even in the second-and-third largest cities of Thessaloniki in the north and Patra on the west coast.