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Gone in one minute – hundreds rush to buy face masks

2020-01-30 HKT 10:00
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  • Gone in one minute – hundreds rush to buy face masks
Long queues formed outside pharmacies on Thursday morning as Hongkongers sought limited supplies of face masks amid growing concern about the new coronavirus that originated in Wuhan.

At one branch of the Watsons chain at Festival Walk in Kowloon Tong, an estimated 400 shoppers queued for hours in the hope of getting one of the 20 packets of masks on offer. All 20 tokens to buy the masks were handed out within a minute, leaving staff to apologise to disappointed shoppers.

Staff at a Watsons in Tin Shui Wai called police as frustrated shoppers swore at them and banged on the door of the store.

Similar long queues formed at Watsons stores across the SAR despite a warning on its Facebook page that each of its 230 stores would receive only 20 packs of masks, and there was no guarantee that they would be ready in the morning.

"Please take care of your body and recommend not to line overnight or early in the morning," it wrote. "Limited supplies will continue to arrive in the next two days.

"Please wait patiently for the next batch of anti-disease products to Hong Kong in early February. We have continued to search the world for related products that meet specifications. I apologise again."

Another chain, Mannings, also said it was searching around the world for anti-viral materials, including masks and hand disinfecant sprays.

A domestic helper at Festival Walk said she'd arrived outside the mall at 5am and was able to enter at 7am. She received the 13th of 20 tickets at about 9.30am and was told that staff would phone her when the masks arrived.

Mainland authorities announced on Thursday that the death toll from the outbreak had risen to 170, with 7,000 people infected.
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Last updated: 2020-01-30 HKT 10:17