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Armed gang steals toilet rolls in panic-buying hit Hong Kong

HONG KONG: A gang of knife-wielding men jumped a delivery driver in Hong Kong and stole hundreds of toilet rolls, police said yesterday.

In a densely-packed city wracked by shortages caused by coronavirus panic-buying, toilet rolls have become hot property despite government assurances that supplies remain unaffected by the outbreak.

Supermarkets have found themselves unable to restock quickly enough, leading to sometimes lengthy queues and shelves wiped clean within moments of opening.

There has also been a run on staples such as rice and pasta, as well as hand sanitisers and other cleaning items.

Police said a truck driver was held up early yesterday by three men outside a supermarket in Mong Kok, a working-class district with a history of "triad" organised crime gangs.

"A delivery man was threatened by three knife-wielding men who took toilet paper worth more than HK$1,000 (S$180) ," a police spokesman said.

A police source said the missing rolls were later recovered and two suspects were arrested on scene, although it was not clear if they were directly involved in the armed robbery.

Footage from Now TV showed police investigators standing around multiple crates of toilet roll outside a Wellcome supermarket.

One of the crates was only half stacked.

Hong Kongers reacted with a mixture of bafflement and merriment to the heist.

One woman passing by the scene of the crime was interviewed by local TV station iCable, and she said: "I'd steal face masks, but not toilet roll."

The city, which has 58 confirmed coronavirus cases, is currently experiencing a genuine shortage of face masks.

Photos posted online have shown some people proudly stuffing their cramped city apartments with packets of hoarded toilet rolls.

On Sunday, the head of the city's Consumer Council warned people not to stockpile toilet rolls in their flats as they were prone to mould in the notoriously humid climate.

She also reiterated that there were ample stocks of paper. - AFP

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