Man jailed for 14 days after stealing 5 bottles of hand sanitizer amid COVID-19 panic

An unemployed man has been sentenced to 14 days behind bars after admitting to stealing five bottles of hand sanitizer amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Defendant Lam Chi-wai, 47, pleaded guilty to theft during his appearance at Kwun Tong Magistrates’ Court this afternoon.

Apple Daily reports that on Saturday, he went into a pharmacy inside Kolour Tsuen Wan II, a mall and private housing estate in Tsuen Wan, and slipped five bottles of hand gel worth HK$225 into a tote bag, and left. He was stopped by the pharmacy owner outside the store, and subsequently arrested by the police.

The court heard that Lam had 19 previous convictions to his name, and that the last time he reoffended was in 2018.

In mitigation, his defense attorney said that Lam wasn’t planning on selling the hand sanitizer and that it was for his own personal use.

The magistrate, however, wasn’t swayed, and sentenced Lam to 14 days in jail.

Crimes involving face masks and other hygiene supplies have become common since the coronavirus outbreak first began picking up steam in Hong Kong.

On Thursday, a 22-year-old man was robbed of two boxes of face masks and HK$9,000 at knifepoint in Tai Kok Tsui. Earlier that week, a member of Cathay Dragon ground staff was denied bail after she was arrested for allegedly taking HK$3.32 million (US$427,000) from a friend for a shipment of face masks she didn’t have.

Last month an Indonesian domestic worker was jailed for four weeks after admitting to stealing 5,500 face masks, and police in February also arrested three people in connection with the Great Toilet Paper Heist of 2020, which saw a trio of men rob a delivery worker of 600 bog rolls at knifepoint amid a panic-induced shortage.

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