Panic amid the coronavirus crisis seems to be spreading faster than the infection itself, with many stockpiling basic items as if preparing for the apocalypse.
In Hong Kong, shelves are empty and competition is fierce and there is one commodity in particular that residents are going to battle for – toilet roll.
British teacher Alex, who lives and works in Hong Kong, told Metro.co.uk that if you want to bag a new pack of loo roll ‘you better be outside the store early in the morning.’
Pictures and videos coming out of the city show massive queues at the break of dawn, often snaking through streets and stretching back hundreds of metres.
The atmosphere in Hong Kong is tense, Alex said, despite only 50 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the autonomous region. The sharing of sensationalised or unverified stories and pictures is now rife.
Alex, whose school has been shut until mid-March forcing him to teach his pupils via video, told Metro.co.uk: ‘Everyone is wearing masks and at first that was what everyone would queue up for.
‘Prices increased and now, if you want to get a new pack, you’d better be outside the store early in the morning.
‘Then, a story suggested that toilet paper companies would move to making masks instead and now people are bulk-buying toilet roll.
‘I’ll see lines of people outside the supermarkets and shelves cleared.’
Alex hasn’t been able to buy any loo roll in a week and said the queues form ‘every day, if not every other day’. As soon as the stock arrives, it is sold out again within a matter of hours.
Those living in Hong Kong are still attempting to keep a sense of calm and normality, but Alex admits that as the days pass and cases increase, that is getting harder to do.
He said: ‘Teaching has been tough but my school has measures in place – obviously we had the protests recently so we had already experienced closure of the school for a week or so.
‘Our children are used to online learning where we will update a Google Classroom everyday. We try to get normalcy by uploading videos of ourselves to at least show the kids that we are all fine.’
Fears that the Chinese government are not revealing the true extent of the coronavirus spread or death toll have been steadily rising since the outbreak was first reported.
Alex said people in Hong Kong are getting ‘fed up’ with their own administration, with many calling for leader Carrie Lam to close the region’s borders to mainland China.
Alex said: ‘I’ve opted to stick to British news as there is a general consensus that the government [in China] might not be overly forthcoming about information.
‘The main issue with Carrie Lam at the moment seems to be a dispute over why she won’t close the border to the mainland despite advice from a number of different sources.
‘People are generally fed up with her it seems.’
The teacher said he feels fairly calm about the coronavirus spread and has no current plans to leave.
He told Metro.co.uk : ‘Mum and dad check in regularly but as I’ve told them, the number of cases in HK is around 50 at the moment, which in the grand scheme of things is a very small amount of the population.
‘It’s only really kicked off in severity over the past couple of weeks so I’m sure after a month it’ll be less pleasant.’
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