Panic buying results in rows of empty store shelves in Hong Kong as residents become “preppers” ahead of coronavirus spread
02/09/2020 // JD Heyes // Views

Americans have been criticized for waiting until chaos hits before they take pre-disaster planning seriously, but they’re not the only ones: Residents of Hong Kong are doing the same thing ahead of the arrival of coronavirus throughout the Asian financial hub.

As The South China Morning Post reports, Hong Kong residents have flooded stores and emptied shelves in recent days with no end in sight, as the virus continues spreading throughout the country: 

Hong Kong supermarkets are struggling to restock shelves as a buying frenzy continues amid fears over the coronavirus outbreak, with some shoppers urging the government to try to restore the public’s confidence.

Those looking for cleaning supplies, tissue paper and dry goods again found only empty shelves in stores across the city on Friday as supermarkets waited on supplies.

The paper noted further that people who are looking for real food have been reduced to buying candies and confectionaries because of shortages — that store managers and city officials said would not happen.

Some store managers said they were expecting to be restocked by the weekend with rice and other traditional fare. But there’s no end in sight to the spread of the coronavirus, either, so it’s safe to say that food shortages will very likely become a common occurrence in the coming days and weeks.

One worker at a ParknShop supermarket told the SCMP that normally the store was restocked with rice four times a week, but that now seemed unlikely.

“But whether there will be supply, we are not sure yet,” the employee said.


Bottled water, frozen dumplings, biscuits, wafers, chocolate and other common foods were scarce at the very least, and downright missing from most markets.

At another store, Market Place by Jasons, told reporters staff restocked six large trolleys’ worth of toilet paper, but were sold out within hours Thursday night.

Once people found out the store had toilet paper, they mobbed the place. 

“People immediately swarmed in, you couldn’t even get to the shelf,” one store assistant said.

What comes next is pandemonium

Searching for food and supplies has become nearly a full-time job for many as they have spent days scouring for needed items, the SCMP reported. In addition to being worried about the spread of coronavirus, Hong Kong residents are also fearful of new border restrictions that will choke off resupplies. This, ahead of mandatory quarantines pertaining to everyone who had arrived from mainland China ahead of the weekend.

And there’s this to consider as well: As more Chinese are quarantined so the government can contain the virus, there will be fewer workers to fill the factories, which will lead to fewer supplies being manufactured and, hence, fewer being delivered to the marketplace.

The problem will only exacerbate as the virus continues to creep across the mainland, sickening tens of thousands and killing hundreds.

In addition to shortages of toilet paper and tissues, stores have run out of hand sanitizers — necessary to help prevent the spread of the virus — and personal hygiene products. Some stores that do continue to stock these items are placing limits on the number of them that customers can purchase (like two).

Other products that are sold out include sanitary towels, shower gel, cleaning products and food items. Even canned goods are running low, the SCMP said.

Some Hong Kong residents are urging people to calm down but they admit it’s difficult to do given the fact that they have lost faith in the government to both control the virus and to keep supply chains intact.

Because what comes next is worse: Pandemonium.

“At this rate, soon it won’t just be panic buying. People will start robbing each other,” said Chow, a woman in her 50s who runs a shop selling prayer materials in Sham Shui Po.

Sources include:

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