A woman wearing a protective face mask walks past stacks of toilet paper for sale in the Tsuen Wan district of Hong Kong on February 8, 2020. Hong Kong has been hit by a wave of panic-buying in recent days with supermarket shelves frequently emptied of crucial goods such as toilet paper, hand sanitiser, rice and pasta, as the city on February 8 began enforcing a mandatory two-week quarantine for anyone arriving from mainland China, a dramatic escalation of its bid to stop the deadly new coronavirus from spreading.
AFP/Philip Fong
Armed gang steals toilet rolls in panic-buying hit Hong Kong
(Agence France-Presse) - February 17, 2020 - 10:55am

HONG KONG, China — Armed robbers who stole hundreds of toilet rolls were being hunted by Hong Kong police on Monday, in a city wracked by shortages caused by coronavirus panic-buying.

Toilet rolls have become hot property in the densely packed business hub, despite government assurances that supplies remain unaffected by the virus outbreak.

Supermarkets have found themselves unable to restock quickly enough, leading to sometimes lengthy queues and shelves stripped bare within moments of opening.

Alongside toilet rolls, there has been a run on staples like rice and pasta as well as hand sanitiser and other cleaning items. 

Police said a truck driver was held up early Monday by three men outside a supermarket in Mong Kok, a working class district with a history of "triad" organised crime gangs.

"A delivery man was threatened by three knife-wielding men who took toilet paper worth more than HK$1,000 ($130)," a police spokesman told AFP.

Footage from Now TV showed police investigators standing around multiple crates of toilet roll outside a Wellcome supermarket. One of the crates was only half stacked.

The hysteria that has swept through Hong Kong since the coronavirus outbreak exploded on mainland China is partly fuelled by the city's tragic recent history of confronting a deadly disease.

In 2003, 299 Hong Kongers died of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), an outbreak that began on the mainland but was initially covered up by Beijing, a decision that left a lasting legacy of distrust towards the authorities on public health issues.

This year's coronavirus outbreak also comes at a time when the city's pro-Beijing leadership boasts historic low approval ratings after refusing to bow to months of angry pro-democracy protests last year.

Authorities have blamed false online rumours for the panic-buying and say supplies of food and household goods remain stable.

But the panic-buying has itself created shortages in one of the world's most densely populated cities where supermarkets and pharmacies have limited floor space.

2019 NCOV COVID-19 HONG KONG NOVEL CORONAVIRUS
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: April 6, 2020 - 6:58pm

Follow this page for updates on a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck dozens of people in China.

April 6, 2020 - 6:58pm

The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 50,000 people in Europe, mostly in Italy, Spain, France and Britain, according to an AFP tally using official figures at 0945 GMT on Monday.

With a total of 50,209 deaths, Europe is the continent with the most COVID-19 fatalities, out of 675,580 declared cases. Hardest-hit Italy has 15,877 deaths and Spain 13,055.

France has reported 8,078 fatalities while Britain has 4,934. — AFP

April 6, 2020 - 4:53pm

The Philippines records an additional 414 cases of the new coronavirus, raising the national total to 3,660.

The Department of Health also confirms 11 COVID-19 patients died in the country, bringing the national toll to 163.

Nine new patients recovered from the virus, which brings the total number of recoveries to 73.

April 6, 2020 - 9:07am

More than 1,200 people have died of coronavirus complications in the United States in the past day, John Hopkins University says.

The Baltimore-based university, which has been keeping a running tally of global coronavirus numbers, says there are at least 337,072 confirmed infections in the US with 9,633 deaths. — AFP

April 6, 2020 - 8:37am

US President Donald Trump on Sunday says he is "hopeful and sure" Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is hospitalized for further coronavirus tests after testing positive, would recover from COVID-19.

"He is a friend of mine, he is a great gentleman, a great leader. He was brought to the hospital today but I am hopeful and sure that he is going to be fine," Trump says at his White House briefing.

"He is a strong man, a strong person." — AFP

April 4, 2020 - 4:09pm

The Department of Health reports 76 more local cases of the coronavirus disease 2019, bringing the official tally to 3,094 from the previous count of 3,018.

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