New Zealand Listener


When Tony Scott of Orewa heard New Zealand’s first case of the Covid-19 coronavirus disease had been confirmed, he says his mind raced through the possible scenarios of quarantines and shops with bare shelves and he decided that he and his wife needed to stock up on essentials.

He says she sprang into action and started looking through the pantry. “No,” I said, “not food! We must buy a new big-screen smart TV and computer, upgrade the broadband and sign up to Sky Sport.”

In the face of the latest health scare, Scott has retained his sense of humour – and his marriage – but all over the country, many others are taking it much more seriously.

At Thorndon Pharmacy in central Wellington, a stone’s throw from the Ministry of Health, pharmacist Arthur Chan could do a vigorous trade in face masks and hand sanitiser – if only he could get the stock.

“We’re supplied sporadically,” he says, “and as soon as they come in, they sell.” He has heard of profiteering occurring, but his pharmacy is selling the items at regular prices.

“Essentially, we’ve been priming ourselves to get the screaming willies over something like Covid-19.”

He is aware, as his customers surely would be too, that evidence for the efficacy of face masks is at best weak.

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