Coronavirus: National MP criticised for encouraging panic buying

National MP David Bennett.
National MP David Bennett. Photo credit: RNZ/Alexander Robertson


National MP David Bennett has faced heavy criticism for saying people should be panic buying in the face of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

The Hamilton East MP told a local radio station people should be concerned about the government's response - and should prepare for an outbreak by stockpiling.

He's been labelled "irresponsible", "drongo-istic" and even a "clown".

Bennett told FreeFM radio on Monday the government had dropped the ball on coronavirus and people should be concerned.

The host raised the panic buying seen in some supermarkets over the weekend.

"So they should be, you should be out there panic buying, you know.

"If you're in government and you're in Parliament your job is to probably to ease people's fears and that, but I don't believe in this case you should. The reality is you should stock up on food", he told FreeFM.

Infectious disease expert Siouxsie Wiles said Bennett's comments were "immensely irresponsible".

"The message that's coming out from myself and other public health officials has been 'we don't want you to panic, we want you to prepare, but we don't want you to panic'," she said.

Wiles said there were very real consequences to senseless panic buying.

"I had a conversation yesterday with a lady who is immunocompromised and often uses hand sanitiser when she's out and about and she can't get any anymore," she said.

Wiles said she had been seeing red over the opposition's response to the virus, and a public health emergency was not a time to be eroding confidence.

"If they do have concerns about how the government or health officials are handling this than do this in private rather undermine them.

"The last thing we need is the New Zealand public panicking and doing all the wrong things because they hear the government response or the health official's response being criticised constantly," Wiles said.