Coronavirus outbreak: Rice, toilet paper fly off shelves as rumours spark panic buying in Hong Kong

South China Morning Post

A spokesman for Wellcome said that online claims of noodles and tissue shortages are false

South China Morning Post |

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A shopper stocks up on sanitary products at the Taste supermarket in Wan Chai, amidst the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak.

Hong Kongers are panic buying toilet paper and dried goods such as rice as shoppers buy in bulk to limit trips to the store and save masks.

But many were disappointed to find rice and sought-after household sanitising items, such as bleach and disinfectant, continued to be in short supply.

Latecomers in search of toilet paper were greeted by empty shelves, after sales were partly spurred by online claims of ­impending shortages.

A timeline of the Wuhan coronavirus 

A WhatsApp message claiming to be an internal update from Wellcome said most brands of toilet paper along with popular brands of noodles, canned foods and drinks manufactured in now-closed factories on the mainland would soon run out.

But Wellcome clarified in the evening that such claims circulating online were mere rumours.

“We are working closely with our suppliers to provide a sufficient and diversified choice of products to our customers,” a spokesman said.


Most shoppers wore masks, with a cautious few taking the extra step of wearing gloves as they scoured shelves to fill their trolleys.

In Kowloon Bay, hygiene products including tissue paper, wipes, hand soaps and disinfectants were among the bestselling items in two supermarkets. Some shoppers also snapped up kitchen towels.

A saleswoman at Wellcome said staff restocked shelves with rice on Tuesday night but the supply ran out 30 minutes after the store opened at 7am.