HONG KONG -- Barren supermarket shelves and signs reading “out of stock.”
Widespread panic-buying of essentials such as toilet rolls and rice has hit in Hong Kong, a knock-on effect of the virus outbreak in mainland China.
Despite government assurances that there is no need for worry, panicked Hong Kong shoppers fear the city's efforts to combat the virus' spread could cause shortages of necessities.
Shoppers lining up Friday at a pharmacy in central Hong Kong to buy tissue paper said they felt compelled to stock up.
“I have friends who couldn't get hold of it, so I am helping them to buy it,” said one of the buyers, an accountant who gave just her surname, Yeung. "But I don't know why there are rumors saying that there is no tissue paper, so everyone is worried.”
The lines outside shops and the emptying of shelves come despite the government's insistence that its virus-control measures won't disrupt cross-border freight from mainland China, which supplies much of Hong Kong's perishables and other essentials.
Hong Kong Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung said the two-week quarantine required of anyone arriving from the mainland would not affect the flow of goods and there was no need for panic-buying.
A government statement Wednesday blamed panic-buying on “the malicious act of spreading rumors when the city is fighting against the disease.”
The Hong Kong Food Council similarly said virus-control measures haven't had a major impact on supplies of rice, vegetables and other staples.
The government has left open two land border checkpoints, refusing to seal the border with the mainland completely, while hoping the quarantine reduces cross-border travel.