Hoarders strip shelves again

Top News | Maisy Mok 15 Jul 2020

Panicky people began hoarding food and toilet paper as they rushed into supermarkets a day after the government banned night dining in restaurants to control the rapidly spreading Covid-19 outbreak.

Takeaways at restaurants will only be allowed from 6pm to 5am and other measures, the strictest in the six-month epidemic, will come into effect today to curb the increasing number of cases.

Another 48 cases, mostly locally contracted, were reported yesterday.

Shelves of several supermarkets, including Wellcome in Tsz Wan Shan, where the outbreak was most severe, were mostly empty yesterday.

Due to the high demand, Wellcome Supermarket restricted each customer to buying no more than two pieces of selected items per transaction, including rice, canned food, toilet paper and detergents.

Long queues formed in the Wan Chai Wellcome supermarket at 4pm yesterday, with many buying dry goods.

An office woman, 50, living in Sha Tin, told The Standard that she was afraid things would sell out as they did in March, so she bought extra toilet rolls as back-up at home.

Dining services at restaurants could be terminated if the pandemic deteriorates further, Secretary for Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee warned yesterday.

"We want to shorten people's time spent in restaurants, as we notice people sit extremely close together, even if there is a special seating arrangement to separate people," Chan said in a radio program yesterday.

The government has found 6pm to 5am the most appropriate time to implement the ban as dining-in breakfast and lunch are still necessary for office workers, Chan said. The ban will be in effect for seven days but it is possible it will be extended beyond July 21, she said.

Ho Pak-leung, head of the University of Hong Kong's Centre for Infection, proposed the government ban dining in cha chaan teng - Hong Kong-style cafes - and bring in stricter measures before a large-scale community outbreak occurs.

"Some Covid-19 clusters took place at small cha chaan teng," Ho said in another radio program.

"The government can impose stricter measures on high-risk catering premises such a cha chaan teng and ban dining-in services for a whole day to quickly halt transmission of disease."

Ho said the new measures to take effect from today may lead to an easing of the latest outbreak but he urged the government to be more proactive.

On the same radio program, Chan said the government plans to start testing four main high-risk groups this week - taxi drivers and workers in elderly care homes, catering and property management companies.

All tests would be conducted locally as the two testing providers from Macau and Shenzhen have set up laboratories in Hong Kong, she said.

As the pandemic continues to escalate around the world, the government might add more regions to the high-risk list under which arriving passengers are required to be tested negative for Covid-19 before they board planes to Hong Kong. Seven regions are on the high-risk list - India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, South Africa, Nepal, the Philippines and Indonesia.

Meanwhile, the Education Bureau asked schools yesterday to finish all exams in the coming two to three days to begin the summer holiday as early as possible.

All schools are required to stop classes and activities for two weeks starting today until July 28, including extra tutorial classes arranged by schools.

The measure also applies to tutorial schools and other private institutions.

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