Hong Kong armed gang steals toilet rolls amid coronavirus scare

Hong Kong police outside a supermarket after armed robbers stole hundreds of toilet rolls in a city wracked by shortages caused by coronavirus panic-buying. (AFP)
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Updated 17 February 2020

Hong Kong armed gang steals toilet rolls amid coronavirus scare

  • Toilet rolls have become hot property in the densely packed business hub
  • Alongside toilet rolls, there has been a run on staples caused by coronavirus panic-buying

HONG KONG: Armed robbers who stole hundreds of toilet rolls were being hunted by Hong Kong police on Monday, in a city wracked by shortages caused by coronavirus panic-buying.
Toilet rolls have become hot property in the densely packed business hub, despite government assurances that supplies remain unaffected by the virus outbreak.
Supermarkets have found themselves unable to restock quickly enough, leading to sometimes lengthy queues and shelves wiped clean within moments of opening.
Alongside toilet rolls, there has been a run on staples like rice and pasta as well as hand sanitizer and other cleaning items.

Police said a truck driver was held up early Monday by three men outside a supermarket in Mong Kok, a working-class district with a history of “triad” organized crime gangs.
“A delivery man was threatened by three knife-wielding men who took toilet paper worth more than HK$1,000 ($130),” a police spokesman said.
Footage from Now TV showed police investigators standing around multiple crates of toilet roll outside a Wellcome supermarket. One of the crates was only half stacked.
Hong Kongers reacted with a mixture of bafflement and merriment to the heist.
One lady passing by the scene of the crime who was interviewed by local TV station iCable quipped: “I’d steal face masks, but not toilet roll.”
The city, which has 57 confirmed coronavirus cases, is currently experiencing a genuine shortage of face masks.

Opinion

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The hysteria that has swept through Hong Kong since the coronavirus outbreak exploded on mainland China is partly fueled by the city’s tragic recent history of confronting a deadly disease.
In 2003, 299 Hong Kongers died of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), an outbreak that began on the mainland but was initially covered up by Beijing, a decision that left a lasting legacy of distrust toward the authorities on public health issues.
The new coronavirus outbreak also comes at a time when the city’s pro-Beijing leadership has historic low approval ratings after refusing to bow to months of angry pro-democracy protests last year.
Authorities have blamed false online rumors for the panic-buying and say supplies of food and household goods remain stable.
But the panic-buying has itself created shortages in one of the world’s most densely populated cities where supermarkets and pharmacies have limited floor space.
Photos posted online have shown some people proudly stuffing their cramped city apartments with packets of hoarded toilet rolls.
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.
She also re-iterated that there were ample stocks of toilet roll.


Sanofi offers 100 million doses of hydroxychloroquine in coronavirus fight

Updated 24 min 25 sec ago

Sanofi offers 100 million doses of hydroxychloroquine in coronavirus fight

  • Proposals to put hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to use immediately for more patients have proven highly controversial

PARIS: French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi said Friday it would offer 100 million doses of hydroxychloroquine, a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, to governments worldwide if studies show it can safely to be used to treat COVID-19 patients.
Both hydroxychloroquine, which Sanofi sells under the brand name Plaquenil, and the related compound chloroquine, an anti-malarial drug, are being studied worldwide as potential weapons in the coronavirus fight.
But proposals to put them to use immediately for more patients have proven highly controversial, with many experts warning there is not yet enough evidence of their safety or effectiveness against COVID-19.
A French doctor in particular, Didier Raoult, has raised hopes by treating patients with a combination of hydroxychloroquine (HQC) and the antibiotic azithromycin, an initiative that many health officials refuse to endorse in the absence of more rigorous studies.
On Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron met Raoult and his team in Marseille to discuss their latest findings, though the president did not comment publicly on the meeting afterward.
Sanofi acknowledged that “interpretations of the available preliminary data on hydroxychloroquine in the management of COVID-19 differ widely.
“While hydroxychloroquine is generating a lot of hope for patients around the world, it should be remembered that there are no results from ongoing studies, and the results may be positive or negative.”
But chief executive Paul Hudson said in a statement, “If the trials prove positive, we hope our donation will play a critical role for patients.”
Other companies have also pledged to offer the drugs, with Switzerland’s Novartis proposing 130 million doses of chloroquine, and Israeli generic producer Teva promising 10 million doses of HQC for US hospitals.
Sanofi is also working on a potential vaccine for the new coronavirus, which has killed more than 94,000 people worldwide since cases were first reported in China last December.