With the current death toll for the Wuhan virus at 639 and the total number of people infected with it at 31,480, it is very easy for people to start rumours and spread fear.
Everyone is already on high alert due to the virus outbreak, so naturally, when they hear something online, they will alert their friends and family before checking the facts with reputable sources.
Various rumours include the fact that there will be shortages of goods like rice and toilet paper. As such, upon hearing this, many people in Hong Kong flocked to their local supermarkets and panic bought supplies.
To the point that there were none left on the shelves.
— Anth (@AnthHoKo) February 5, 2020
— Freedom-Hi 😷 (@Freedom51354453) February 1, 2020
Yes, it was that bad.
Videos showed that there were many frantic shoppers who packed their trolleys full of supplies like multiple packets of toilet rolls, rice and pasta. A few even got into arguments.
Hong Kong Government Responds
It was so bad that the government had to step in and reassure the citizens that there is sufficient stock of supplies and that they don’t have to panic buy.
The government released a statement that said:
“In response to various rumours recently that there are shortages of goods such as rice and toilet papers, leading to panic buying and even chaos, a government spokesman today expresses regret over the malicious act of spreading rumours when the city is fighting against the disease, and condemns those rumour mongers with evil intentions. There are sufficient stocks of staple food including rice and pastas. There is no need for the public to worry.”
Harold Yip, the founder of Mil Mill, a Hong Kong-based waste paper recycling company, shared that they received more than 100 enquiries about toilet paper on 5 February alone.
According to RTHK news, one supermarket in the district of Wanchai made sure to restock toilet paper and rice fully on one night, only to find that they were all cleared within 30 minutes of the store opening the following morning.
— dongtitNdogsons (@dongtitNdogsons) February 2, 2020
The supermarket chain Wellcome also chipped in to say that the rumours were not true and were baseless.
— Gabriel Tsang (@gabe_creative) February 4, 2020
Hong Kong currently has 21 confirmed cases, including one patient who passed away. Those who were infected came from mainland China, but there are more people with no travel history to the mainland getting infected, causing more people to fear that local transmission cases will increase.
Many citizens have urged pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam to close the border with China, but she is hesitant to do so because she said that it would be economically damaging and discriminatory.
As of now, her administration has cut the number of land border crossings to two.
She also announced on Wednesday that anyone who enters Hong Kong from China will be subjected to two weeks of mandatory quarantine.
Hopefully the government’s words would put most citizens at ease and they will stop panic buying.
We also pray that this epidemic will end soon.
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