Thousands of face masks stolen in Kowloon amid coronavirus-induced shortage

People line up outside a pharmacy in Hong Kong in February in hopes of buying face masks amid a citywide shortage. Screengrab via YouTube.
People line up outside a pharmacy in Hong Kong in February in hopes of buying face masks amid a citywide shortage. Screengrab via YouTube.

With face mask fever still apparently gripping Hong Kong amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, some 2,000 masks were stolen in separate incidents in Sham Shui Po and Tsim Sha Tsui late last night and early this morning, respectively.

In the first case, a 40-year-old Bangladeshi national was robbed of 15 boxes of 750 masks valued at HK$3,000 (about US$386), that he had placed at the corner of Lai Chi Kok Road and Pei Ho Street in Sham Shui Po, on.cc reports

The man called the police at around midnight after discovering the masks had disappeared.

Officers have been unable to track down the perpetrators so far.

Less than an hour later, police received a similar report from a woman that her stock of over a thousand face masks had been stolen from her unit on Kimberley Road, in Tsim Sha Tsui.

Officers have been reviewing CCTV footage from the woman’s building, and other CCTV cameras installed on the roofs of nearby buildings in the neighborhood to track down the robber.

The thefts came as panicked Hongkongers find themselves lining up outside pharmacies across the city to buy face masks amid a severe shortage as fears over the potentially deadly coronavirus grow.

On Jan. 31, thieves made off with 25,000 surgical masks from the stock of a businesswoman that were intended for sale online and being stored in a warehouse at in Yau Tong.

The day before, a 56-year-old staffer at Princess Margaret Hospital was arrested for allegedly stealing medical materials from a ward, including 14 surgical masks, 22 N95 respiratory masks, and some surgical gloves.

Despite the sustained run on masks, it’s unclear whether they are actually effective at preventing disease transmission in everyday settlings, and experts note that simply washing one’s hands frequently and avoiding sick people is just as effective.

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CITY: HONG KONGCATEGORY: NEWSSUB-CATEGORIES: CRIME, HEALTH

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