Two of South Africa’s biggest pharmacy groups, Dis-Chem and Clicks, say they qualify as essential services during the country-wide lockdown, and have called for calm, after days of panic buying have put strain on staff.
According to Dis-Chem chief executive Ivan Saltzman, the group falls into the category of organisations that will remain open throughout the lockdown period as they are essential to the production and transportation of food, basic goods and medical supplies.
“We will remain open for the duration of the lockdown period. We have extensive warehouses which are fully stocked, we have ramped up delivery schedules and our supply chain will ensure the distribution of goods to stores on a regular basis.
The CEO said that many stores are working extra hours to keep shelves stocked and assures all South Africans that it has put in the necessary steps and protocols, including temperature monitoring, to ensure that Dis-Chem continues to provide a critical service to shoppers during an unprecedented time.
He also urged shoppers to be cognisant of the pressure under which store employees are working.
“Some of our staff are working double-shifts and overtime to ensure that shelves are replenished regularly. We have taken every necessary precaution to ensure the highest levels of health and safety in our stores, and all staff members are rigorously following strict hygiene measures and protocols.
“Due to the unprecedented influx of online orders, we are overwhelmed and working day and night to ensure orders are dispatched and ask customers to be patient.”
However, there have been incidents where shoppers have unnecessarily verbally abused staff, he said.
“Please remember that they are working under very trying circumstances and we plead with consumers to be more tolerant both of our workforce and their fellow shoppers. We are all in this together and while the next three weeks will be difficult for all of us, we need to band together for the greater good of our country and fellow citizens,” he said.
Clicks is open
Clicks said that it will also be open during the lockdown, and its clinics will continue to make flu vaccinations for the coming winter period its priority.
“We are doing everything we possibly can to service the needs of our staff, customers and communities,” said Rachel Wrigglesworth, Clicks chief commercial officer.
“Clicks has a critical role to play during this time, and our focus is to ensure that pharmacy, healthcare and a wide range of the essential products that we sell are available to those who need them. Clicks Pharmacies will continue to dispense medication and Clicks Clinics will remain open and focus on flu vaccinations as their key priority.”
The group said that in the past few days it has seen an unexpected increase in demand for essentials and hygiene products both in-store and online.
Because of the high demand, both the online and physical stores are continuously receiving deliveries and, to ensure that essential products are available for all customers, the group will be placing restrictions on some items.
It has restricted quantities to six products per customer in-store and three products per customer online on certain items.
“These really are extraordinary times and we ask that customers practise social distancing by maintaining a one metre distance between our store staff and other customers, as we try and prevent the spread of Covid-19 and flatten the curve,” Wrigglesworth said.