In response to a fresh coronavirus state of emergency for Tokyo and surrounding prefectures, supermarkets operating in the metropolitan area are considering restricting the entry of customers to prevent overcrowding inside stores.
Summit Inc., which operates supermarkets mainly in Tokyo and its neighboring prefectures of Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa, which are all under a state of emergency, is asking customers again to visit its stores in small groups and to only spend a short amount of time inside.
When the previous emergency declaration was issued in April last year, Summit saw its stores flooded with shoppers seeking to stock up on groceries and other household items.
This time, supermarkets have massively increased their stocks of products, such as instant noodles, that became targets of panic-buying during last year’s virus emergency. Agriculture minister Kotaro Nogami has called on consumers not to rush to stock up on products and to act calmly.
On top of limiting the number of shoppers allowed in stores during times when they are crowded, major supermarket operators will refrain from carrying out discount sales and limited-time offers. Starting on Saturday, Life Corp. halted the distribution of leaflets at all of its 121 stores in the greater Tokyo area to reduce infection risks for both employees and customers.
The fresh state emergency for the Tokyo area, which went into effect on Friday, is slated to last until Feb. 7. The previous emergency declaration was expanded nationwide on April 16 last year after it was issued initially for Tokyo and other hot spots earlier that month. It was lifted in stages the following month.
When the first virus emergency was expanded nationwide, products such as diapers, mineral water and instant noodles disappeared from store shelves, stoking concerns among consumers.
Aeon Co. has recently doubled its inventories mainly of sanitary goods and food, while Life will increase stocks of dry noodles and pre-packaged foods.
Retailers ran out of toilet paper after rumors about possible short supplies spread on social media around February last year.
This time, the industry ministry is trying to reassure consumers, saying on Twitter that major supermarket operators and others have secured sufficient inventories.
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