Armed Gang Steals Toilet Paper amid Hong Kong Coronavirus Panic

A man wearing a protective face mask walks past stacks of toilet paper for sale in the Tsuen Wan district of Hong Kong on February 8, 2020. - Hong Kong has been hit by a wave of panic-buying in recent days with supermarket shelves frequently emptied of crucial goods such …
PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images

Hong Kong police are on the lookout for armed gangsters who held up a truck on Monday morning and stole about $130 worth of toilet paper – a precious commodity in a time of coronavirus panic and chronic shortages at grocery stores.

The Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) reported the three toilet paper thieves were armed with knives. The robbery took place in a district noted for triad gang activity.

In the aftermath of the crime, HKFP noted television footage of police investigators standing guard around pallets of toilet paper, either because the shipment is considered evidence of the crime or because they are worried about more thieves attempting to steal it.

Reuters reported 50 rolls of toilet paper were carried off in the heist. Police quickly caught up with two of the three thieves, but the third is still on the loose.

“Authorities have blamed false online rumours for the panic-buying and say supplies of food and household goods remain stable, but the panic-buying has itself created shortages in one of the world’s most densely populated cities where supermarkets and pharmacies have limited floor space,” HKFP wrote.

Hong Kong protesters returned to the streets over the weekend, angry at what they said were insufficient measures by their pro-Beijing government to protect the semi-autonomous city from the epidemic. On Saturday protesters occupied and barricaded several streets, set fire to a railroad station, attempted to block a railroad track, and damaged clinics that have been designated for handling coronavirus patients.

Hong Kong officials said on Sunday they will charter an airplane to return about 350 residents who are currently trapped aboard the Diamond Princess, the cruise ship quarantined in Japan with a steadily mounting number of virus cases detected on board. Officials said the flights would be arranged “free of charge soonest possible after they are permitted to disembark and land.”

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