Coronavirus fears spark panic buying of toilet paper in HK, Latest World News - The New Paper

Coronavirus fears spark panic buying of toilet paper in HK

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HONG KONG Frantic buyers in Hong Kong have descended on supermarkets for toilet rolls as the government warned that online rumours of shortages were hampering the city's fight against the coronavirus outbreak.

Videos showed long queues of shoppers packing trolleys with multiple packets of toilet rolls, with some arguments breaking out. There has been panic buying of rice and pasta also.

The footage - and photos of shelves emptied of toilet rolls - sparked a call from the government for the public to halt panic buying.

"In response to various rumours recently that there are shortages of goods such as rice and toilet paper, leading to panic buying and even chaos, (the government today) expresses regret over the malicious act of spreading rumours when the city is fighting against the disease and condemns those rumour mongers with evil intentions," the statement said.

While Hong Kong has closed most of its land borders to mainland China, where the coronavirus outbreak began, freight services have not been affected, the government said.

"There are sufficient stocks of staple food including rice and pastas. There is no need for the public to worry," it said.

Mr Harold Yip, founder of Mil Mill, a Hong Kong-based waste paper recycling company, said they received over 100 enquiries from members of the public about toilet paper on Wednesday alone.

RTHK news reported that toilet paper and rice at one supermarket in the district of Wanchai - which had been fully restocked overnight - were cleared within 30 minutes of the store opening yesterday morning.

The supermarket chain Wellcome said rumours of shortages were unfounded.

The coronavirus has killed more than 560 people in China since spreading from the central city of Wuhan late last year.

Hong Kong now has 21 confirmed infections, including one patient who died.

The majority of those infected came from mainland China.

But in recent days, there has been a spike in carriers with no history of travel to the mainland, sparking fears that local transmissions were growing.

On Wednesday, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced anyone arriving from the Chinese mainland from Saturday would face a mandatory two-week quarantine. - AFP