Feb 17, 2020 - World

Household basics are scarce in Hong Kong under coronavirus lockdown

A Hongkonger walks past empty supermarket shelves that were last stocked with toilet paper and paper towels. Photo: Miguel Candela / Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

A deliveryman in Hong Kong on Monday was robbed at knife point for toilet paper, as the city copes with ongoing shortages of basic household and cooking supplies amid the coronavirus outbreak, the New York Times reports.

What's happening: Some Hong Kong supermarkets began selling out of sanitary towels, frozen dumplings, cooking oil, bottled water, bread, shower gel, cleaning products and noodles in the first week of February, South China Morning Post reports, while canned goods started to run low.

  • Shoppers scouring for toilet paper at three different supermarkets in Sham Shui Po were turned away in early February, per the Morning Post.

Where it stands: Retailers say "there is no genuine shortage" of toilet paper and have dispelled rumors that mainland manufacturers would stop producing it, per the Times.

  • But, "bulk packs of toilet paper are snatched off supermarket shelves almost as soon as they are restocked."

The big picture: High-tech industrial parks in Shenzhen, one of China's manufacturing hubs, were not allowed to reopen until today, per the Washington Post. Businesses have been slow to restart, per the Wall Street Journal, as many workers are still stuck in their hometowns and factories remain idle.

  • Hong Kong has sealed most of its border with China but has avoided a complete shutdown, per the Post.

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