Residents stock up on food
- Around 90pc of city’s total food supply is imported, with the bulk coming from China
- US reaction to virus spreads ‘panic’: China
Panic-stricken residents have emptied shelves in major supermarkets in Hong Kong, stockpiling meat, rice, cleaning products and soap as fears escalate over a coronavirus epidemic on the mainland.
The rush to procure food in the city of 7.4 million people is unprecedented, residents say, describing it as far worse than the panic during the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that killed nearly 800 people around the world, including nearly 300 in Hong Kong.
The new coronavirus originated in central China’s Hubei province and has so far killed 361 people in the country.
Over the weekend in Hong Kong, hundreds of people queued for hours to buy masks and immune-boosting products such as vitamin C.
At a major supermarket in the bustling Wan Chai district, counters selling chilled meat and seafood were empty by mid-morning on Friday and over the weekend, with stocks of fresh vegetables dwindling.
“Everybody is really worried. I think everyone is afraid of what is going to happen in the next few days. Prices are also going to rise,” said Cindy, a retail executive who was buying dry food and soap.
Dozens of mask-wearing shoppers pushed trolleys down empty aisles showing sold-out signs for hand wash and antiseptic liquids. Others tried to stock up on remaining bags of rice and packaged noodles.
The rush to buy food and cleaning products comes as some shoppers said they were concerned that a potential shutdown of the border would impact the supply of products.
Around 90 percent of the city’s total food supply is imported, with the bulk coming from the mainland, according to official data, reports Reuters.
Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam announced the closure of four more border crossings with mainland China yesterday, leaving just three checkpoints open, but stopped short of demands for the entire border to be closed to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.
Meanwhile, China’s foreign ministry yesterday criticised the US for being the first to evacuate nationals without providing “substantial assistance” to China, reports AFP.
The US actions had caused “panic”, said spokeswoman Hua Chunying.