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Govt help over masks just a rumour, says govt

2020-01-30 HKT 13:16
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  • Officials say people shouldn't believe rumours that the government will provide the public with masks due to the Wuhan virus outbreak. File photo: AFP
    Officials say people shouldn't believe rumours that the government will provide the public with masks due to the Wuhan virus outbreak. File photo: AFP
  • A Korean shopping website says orders for face masks may be cancelled due to a surge in demand.
    A Korean shopping website says orders for face masks may be cancelled due to a surge in demand.
The government on Thursday sought to quash rumours circulating online that the authorities are going to provide the people of Hong Kong with face masks, as some desperate residents across the city queue for hours outside shops just for a chance of getting hold of some.

With growing fears over the Wuhan virus outbreak on the mainland, stores in Hong Kong have run out of face masks, with disinfectant and other cleaning products also hard to come by.

The Home Affairs Department has issued a statement saying people should not believe rumours that masks will be given out to residents at its offices.

"A spokesperson clarified that the claims are totally unfounded and appealed to the public to stay vigilant and not hastily believe in rumours," the statement says.

The Labour Department appealed to employers to provide masks for their staff instead.

Meanwhile, the rush for face masks has spread online, with the difficulties in buying them in Hong Kong leading people to turn to overseas shopping websites.

Secondary school teacher Clarice Koo said she had spent HK$3,400 on a South Korean website to get 17 boxes of face masks for her family

“Some shops in Mong Kok are selling face masks at more than HK$10 each,” she said.

“It’s like wartime and people are panic buying. I’m panicked too.”

Koo said her masks are scheduled to be shipped next Monday, but a notice put up on the website warns of delays in delivery and possible cancellations of orders.

Another Hong Kong resident, surnamed Fan, said her friend tried to buy some face masks from a US shopping website but the products were intercepted by the authorities.

In Legco on Thursday, Health Secretary Sophia Chan said the government is sourcing masks from across the world and further batches are expected to arrive in Hong Kong in the coming days. She added that officials are looking at producing face masks locally.