Stop ‘wasting your money’, Minister tells panic buyers
No ‘red alert’ over coronavirus, say Government and Defence Forces
Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe: “Ireland is coming at this challenge from a position of strength . . . Everything that can be done will be done.” Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins
People who are bulk buying food because of coronavirus crisis are wasting their money, Minister for Business Heather Humphreys has said.
The Government has warned against panic buying in supermarkets as reports emerged of long queues in shops across the country following the temporary closure of schools and childcare facilities.
Ms Humphreys met with the retail and grocery sector on Friday morning and said she remains confident there is sufficient stock to meet demand.
“I want to be very clear, people do not need to stockpile. Supermarkets and shops will remain open. Stockpiling could cause problems, so please don’t do it. In fact, we have never been in a stronger position to deal with this due to our preparations for a hard Brexit,” she said.
“A shelf can only hold so much. The shelves were full again this morning and will be full again tomorrow morning. I would say to people once again, you are wasting your money. Do what you normally do.”
Ms Humphreys also said there were no plans for the closure of non-food stores as had been the case in Italy.
Meanwhile, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said there were no plans to declare a “status red” emergency next Monday which would result in a national lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Social media rumours
Rumours circulated on social media that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar would make the announcement at 8am on Monday morning. This followed the widespread circulation of a voice message on Whatsapp where a man purporting to be a member of the Defence Forces made the claim.
The Defence Forces said there was no truth to the speculation and hit out at the spreading of misinformation.
“There is no substance to this material. The Defence Forces are preparing to provide aid to the civil authorities to support the lead agency, the HSE and the Department of Health and local communities, within means and capabilities.”
“Misinformation of this nature is unhelpful.”
Mr Donohoe has also said there are no such plans for this. “The Taoiseach is making comments on this nearly every day, as are Ministers every day. I cannot project what will be happening on Monday but I want to be very clear that there are no such plans in place but we will review every day what is happening and communicate it every day. But there are no such plans in place for an announcement like that.”
Meanwhile, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe welcomed an announcement by the Revenue Commissioners that small businesses which could not make their VAT returns on time would not face interest payments.
The Revenue Commissioners will issue guidance in relation to the March/April VAT returns, which Mr Donohoe said would provide a potentially significant support in the coming weeks.
Mr Donohoe also said that Revenue would engage on an ongoing basis with viable businesses experiencing temporary trading difficulties that may be hindering their ability to pay tax.
“It is true to say that both the societal and the economic response to the Covid-19 outbreak is now evolving rapidly. We want to again make clear that from a public health and economic point of view, we absolutely acknowledge the anxieties and concerns that citizens, employers and employees face at this moment of great difficulty.
“But our citizens should also be reassured that Ireland is coming at this challenge from a position of strength and that everything that can be done will be done to deal with this public health crisis. We can and we will get through this.”