Coronavirus: doctor highlights dangers of unnecessary supermarket shopping
Experts said visiting crowded stores too frequently represented a needless risk to health
A Dubai doctor has warned residents to avoid regularly shopping at supermarkets unless absolutely necessary.
Dr Ahmed Abdelhameed said stores packed with customers continued to pose a risk of spreading infection.
In an interview with The National, the internal medicine specialist urged members of the public to behave responsibly to help contain the coronavirus.
He said asymptomatic individuals could unwittingly pass on the disease, and that staying home was the safest option.
“It is irresponsible and dangerous to others to go shopping unless it is absolutely essential,” he said.
It is irresponsible and dangerous to others to go shopping unless it is absolutely essential
Dr Ahmed Abdelhameed
“This stay at home protocol is very important. Someone can be healthy and well, but be a silent carrier.
“So going to a supermarket is [potentially] exposing others to infection.”
Supermarkets across the UAE have seen a surge in customers over recent weeks as residents look to stock up on essential supplies.
In Dubai, anecdotally at least, numbers appear to have risen even further following the announcement of a two-week lockdown across the emirate on April 5.
Residents now have to apply for police permits to leave their homes, and can only do so for urgent health reasons or to buy food or medical supplies.
The ruling has led to many more people visiting supermarkets, with authorities increasingly concerned that some may be going often for small purchases rather than completing one big shop.
“These people are putting themselves at unnecessary risk from the virus,” said Dr Abdelhameed, who works at Medcare Women & Children Hospital in Dubai.
“Supermarkets are getting busy, so there is still a high risk. If they are crowded then people should go elsewhere to be safe.
“I only take long-life shopping bags to the supermarket as I know where they have been, so I can reduce the risk of Covid-19.”
Under the new Dubai protocols, launched by the Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management, all journeys outside the home must be approved in advance.
Trips must be submitted online via a Dubai Police website, although the system has struggled to cope with demand.
Anyone wishing to leave their home must first outline the reason for their request, saying where they will be going and giving an estimated time away from their address.
“People need to be clever and have common sense in how to interpret these heath measures,” said Dr Juan Acuna, chairman at the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Khalifa University.
“The reality is this is a pandemic, so the only way to prevent complete infection is through complete isolation of everyone, a total lockdown.
“Promoting the minimum amount of contact between people, preventing mass gatherings and stopping infected people from mixing with others is the way to go.
“These new measures are the right ones at this stage.”
As of April 7, the UAE had 2,076 cases of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19. Eleven patients have died of the disease, while 167 have recovered.
Globally, more than 1.3 million people have been infected, resulting in more than 75,000 deaths.
Dr Fathi Algiurani, an internal medicine consultant at Burjeel Medical City, said the new measures in Dubai were the best way to control the outbreak.
“The measures are very good and you will see the number of infections come down as a result,” he said.
“I know it is very difficult for people to stay at home, but it is important.
“It is the best way to flatten the curve, but people do not always understand that this is a good decision.”
Brig Saif Al Mazroui, head of traffic at Dubai Police, also stressed that residents going out to buy food should consider one big shop to last them several days or more, rather than repeated visits.
“People need to understand that going out must be for only an absolute necessity,” he said. “They should buy what is enough for a number of days.”
Updated: April 7, 2020 08:38 PM