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Hong Kong shoppers line up, empty supermarkets amid coronavirus fears – Business Insider

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Hong Kong shoppers line up, empty supermarkets amid coronavirus fears – Business Insider

Empty supermarket shelves in Hong Kong on February 6.

Phlip Fong/AFP via Getty Images


  • People in Hong Kong have been raiding supermarkets and pharmacies for supplies from masks to toilet paper amid growing coronavirus fears and rumors that shipments could be cut off. 
  • Thousands of people in Hong Kong camped out overnight Tuesday to Wednesday to line up for masks. The line was reportedly about four kilometers long on Wednesday morning, according to the South China Morning Post.
  • As speculation about possible supply holdups due to border closures flooded social media, panicked buyers cleared supermarket shelves of some essentials, like toilet paper and instant food.  
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Hong Kong residents are rushing to buy crucial supplies as the first coronavirus-related death for the territory was confirmed and health workers strike for a full border closure.

People camped out overnight Tuesday to Wednesday after a company said it would release 6,000 boxes of surgical masks, according to the South China Morning Post. The line for masks reportedly stretched for about four kilometers long in the morning on Wednesday. 

Hong Kong’s government has blocked all but three border crossing points with mainland China, but health workers have gone on strike to demand a full border closure. The closures have spurred fear and speculation on social media that shipments could be cut off, causing a shortage of daily necessities. 

According to Bloomberg, the government described the speculation as a “malicious act of spreading rumors,” and food traders reassured residents that “there’s absolutely no need to panic buy,” the South China Morning Post reported. But still, buyers have continued to snap up essential items, toilet papers and instant food in particular, leaving shelves empty at local supermarkets. 

Like in other parts of Asia, people have been lining up to buy face masks in Hong Kong since the coronavirus outbreak began.

Residents line up for masks in front of a department store in Hong Kong on February 3.

Aidan Marzo/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images


Source: Business Insider

Pharmacies have set purchase limits and started to give out registration tickets in order of arrival.

A man being refused purchase of masks because he lost his registration ticket in Hong Kong on February 5.

Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images


Source: The Straits Times

Taiwan has applied a similar but more strict strategy. Starting Thursday, residents have needed to purchase masks with their IDs and can only purchase two per week.

Shoppers receive their purchase tickets in Hong Kong on February 3.

Miguel Candela Poblacion/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images


Source: Taiwan News

Extremely long lines have been seen in front of pharmacies and department stores across Hong Kong as residents rush to stock up on masks.

People line up to buy masks in Hong Kong on February 1.

Tyrone Siu/Reuters


Source: Business Insider

Hong Kong officials have been ordered not to wear masks except in limited circumstances, in order to save supplies for medical workers.

A cosmetics store in Hong Kong places a sign that says “No more masks. Sorry, we tried our best” on February 3.

Miguel Candela Poblacion/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images


Source: South China Morning Post

On Tuesday night, thousands of Hong Kong residents camped out overnight after a company announced that it would release 6,000 boxes of surgical masks for sale.

A couple waits inside a camping tent for a store selling face masks in Hong Kong to open on February 5.

Aidan Marzo/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images


Source: South China Morning Post

The first person in line reportedly arrived at 3 p.m. on Tuesday. The waiting crowds swelled to 10,000 and stretched for an estimated four kilometers in the morning on Wednesday.

The long line for face masks in Hong Kong on February 5.

Aidan Marzo/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images


Source: South China Morning Post

The company ended up selling its entire stock of 11,000 boxes, which were originally planned to be released over two days.

People line up overnight for masks in Hong Kong on February 4 to February 5.

Aidan Marzo/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images


Source: South China Morning Post

There were reportedly several other cases when people lined up overnight for masks in Hong Kong, but those were much smaller in scale.

Residents wait overnight for face masks in Hong Kong on February 4 to February 5.

Aidan Marzo/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images


Source: South China Morning Post, Hong Kong Free Press

Buyers soon raided supermarkets to snap up essential items, especially toilet paper and instant food.

Instant food racks at a supermarket in Hong Kong on January 30.

Tyrone Siu/Reuters


Source: South China Morning Post, Bloomberg

Hong Kong food traders have assured residents of stable supply, but added that there would be no chance for them to restock properly if panicked buying continues.

An empty supermarket in Hong Kong on January 30.

Tyrone Siu/Reuters


Source: South China Morning Post

Hong Kong’s food merchants urged the government to exempt cross-border truck drivers from the 14-day mandatory quarantine, which took effect last Sunday, to ensure supplies could be shipped.

Empty racks in a supermarket in Hong Kong on February 6.

Tyrone Siu/Reuters


Source: South China Morning Post

Many supermarket shelves looked empty despite these reassurances.

Empty racks in a supermarket in Hong Kong on February 6.

Philip Fong/AFP via Getty Image


Source: Bloomberg

Are you a factory worker who’s working extra hours to produce face masks? Contact me at pzhu@businessinsider.com if you’re willing to share your story. 

More:

Features
coronavirus
wuhan coronavirus
Hong Kong


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