Hong Kong – The coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak spurred a shopping frenzy in Hong Kong at around the same time it took place in Singapore. And toilet paper was also a hot item.
Mr Paul Marriott, a secondary school teacher who has lived in Hong Kong most of his life, shares how the people are adapting to the outbreak. He has also uploaded a video taken on Sunday (Feb 9) on his YouTube channel of a visit to a supermarket in Whampoa St, Hung Hom.
“Detergents and cleaning liquids are all gone,” shared Mr Marriott. He scanned the tissue and toilet paper shelves and saw that they were empty. “All this stuff was replenished in the morning and, in a heartbeat, it’s all gone,” he said.
A limit had already been imposed, and each customer could only purchase two units of toilet tissues, facial tissues, kitchen towels and M-folded paper towels, so that there were enough for everyone.
Mr Marriott had visited the shop in previous days and saw how fast the stocks were being depleted. However, the alcoholic beverage and wine aisles looked untouched. While certain shelves were empty, it seemed that shoppers were not panic-buying water and fruits and vegetables. Only one lemon was left in one tray. Probably because it is a good source of vitamin C. “People are buying these like crazy,” he said.
In the snacks section, only the sunflower seeds were sold out. “People are panic-buying sunflower seeds.” The shopping frenzy seemed to be quite selective. Rice and hand sanitizer shelves were also cleared out.
Watch the supermarket tour here.
“It’s quite unfortunate for me to admit this, but I believe the current panic-buying situation that is gripping the city is a mere reflection of the insecurity, paranoia and (in some cases) gullibility of Hong Kong people,” said Mr Marriott. He added that when someone posts information on social media, others would “fall for it” and enter a shopping frenzy mode “without thinking twice”.
“You can’t go through any supermarket or pharmacy in recent times without seeing empty shelves that once occupied soaps, hand sanitisers, toilet paper and large bags of rice,” he said. “In some cases, people in supermarkets have also been fighting and arguing, both physically and verbally, for the sake of getting their hands on products.”
On Monday (Feb 17), the Hong Kong police tracked down and arrested two of the three robbers who had threatened a man delivering some toilet paper.
The men, who were armed with knives, had waited outside a supermarket in Mong Kok for the delivery to arrive. They took HK$1,000 (S$179) worth of toilet paper, the police told AFP.
“The whole panic-buying thing is silly and serves no real purpose other than bringing out the worst in Hong Kong people,” said Mr Marriott. He added that hoarding is a real inconvenience to those who really need the items, like the elderly. “For others, it’s almost like a ‘game’ of who can amass the most masks/toilet papers/detergents/rice bags within a given time.” /TISG