Long queues, flaring tempers and arguments were reported at some shops selling face masks as Hong Kong residents tried to get their hands on any possible stock, with one shopper comparing the odds of finding one to winning the Mark Six lottery.
The rush for masks started from early Wednesday morning with more than 800 people queuing up outside a store in Kowloon Bay, after the retail chain announced on social media the day before that it had restocked masks.
The first customer in the queue said she arrived at around 7am. She complained that the government's decision to partially close the city's border with the mainland was too late and it was ineffective now.
Other customers expressed anxiety and frustration as they said they were running out of masks at home. Some even alleged that some people were selling second-hand ones to cash in on the scarcity.
One person in the line blamed the government for not doing a better job and said people could only count on themselves.
There was similar frustration voiced outside a branch of the retailer in Lok Fu where another crowd had formed to buy masks.
One man who was in the queue said he felt exhausted after making his way from Wong Tai Sin to get hold of masks.
"Being born in Hong Kong was unfortunate," he said as he criticised the Carrie Lam administration for the frantic hunt for masks.
Outside the retailer's Diamond Hill branch, a woman questioned why healthcare workers got priority to buy masks, drawing the ire of a couple of healthcare workers there who offered the woman their share of masks if she was willing to go into a accident and emergency room.
But one man lost his cool when told the healthcare workers would get preference and started shouting at the retailer's staff, complaining about the arrangement.
The Hong Kong General Chamber of Pharmacy said most pharmacies had run out of stock and it would take at least a week for some made-in-Thailand masks to arrive.
But its vice president, Lau Oi-kwok, conceded that he was not sure how many masks the trade would be able to get.
He said pharmacies now have to rely on a supply of masks from Thailand and Malaysia because of export restrictions in Taiwan and the high demand on the mainland.
'Getting face masks as hard as winning Mark Six'
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