Hong Kong armed gang steals toilet rolls as coronavirus panic-buying spreads
Hundreds of toilet rolls were seized by robbers outside a supermarket in Mong Kok as shortage begin to bite
Armed robbers have stolen hundreds of toilet rolls in Hong Kong, a city racked by shortages caused by coronavirus panic-buying.
Toilet rolls have become hot property in the 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 such as rice and pasta as well as hand sanitiser and other cleaning items.
A truck driver was held up early on Monday by three men outside a supermarket in Mong Kok, a district with a history of “triad” 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 said.
A police source told AFP the missing rolls were later recovered and two suspects were arrested on scene although it was not clear if they were directly involved in the armed robbery.
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 on mainland China is partly fuelled by the city’s history of confronting the deadly Sars outbreak.
In 2003, 299 Hongkongers died from 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.