Published: Wed, February 19, 2020
Global News | By Blake Casey

Hundreds of toilet paper rolls stolen amid coronavirus fears

Hundreds of toilet paper rolls stolen amid coronavirus fears

Two masked thieves in Hong Kong were arrested Monday after holding a delivery man at knifepoint and stealing hundreds of rolls of toilet paper, as panic over a lack of supplies grows in the world financial hub now fending off the widespread outbreak of the coronavirus on the Chinese mainland. One of the crates was only half stacked.

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

Other household products have also seen panic-buying including rice, pasta and cleaning items.

In the last fortnight, the global business hub has been hit by a wave of panic-buying, with supermarket shelves emptied of staple goods such as toilet paper, hand sanitiser and rice.

One woman passing by the scene of the heist told local TV station iCable that "I'd steal faces masks, but no toilet roll", according to AFP.

Authorities say the supply of goods remains stable and says panic buying is itself causing shortages.

Thousands of OFWs bound for Hong Kong and Macau were left stranded in the Philippines after President Rodrigo Duterte on February 2 imposed a travel ban to China and its special administrative regions.

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The government implemented a travel ban on China, Macau and Hong Kong last January 31 following the outbreak of the respiratory illness.

On Sunday, the head of the city's Consumer Council warned people not to stockpile toilet rolls in their flats as they were prone to mold in the notoriously humid climate.

In a popular Catholic church in the Philippines, almost half of the pews were empty for Sunday Mass.

The crisis over the virus comes after months of anti-government demonstrations in the former British colony over the perceived erosion of freedoms by Beijing, which China denies, and the virus has opened up a new front for protesters.

In Hong Kong, Cardinal John Hon Tong, wearing a mask, announced the suspension of public Masses for two weeks and urged churchgoers to instead watch them online.

Religious leaders should encourage Muslims to "trust the party" and avoid crowds, the Communist Party-controlled body that oversees China's officially authorized mosques said in a statement. Foreigners coming from these places were restricted from entering the country.

Currently, over 70,000 people are confirmed to have had the disease while more than 1,800 people have died.

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