Armed thieves in Hong Kong steal 600 toilet rolls as coronavirus fears spark national shortage

An armed gang in Hong Kong stole hundreds of toilet rolls in a robbery sparked by coronavirus fears.

“A delivery man was threatened by three knife-wielding men who took toilet paper worth more than HK$1,000 (£100),” a police spokesman said.

Police arrested two men and are hunting for a third.

The robbery comes amid supply shortages in Hong Kong as the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread.

The virus, also known as Covid-19, has infected more than 71,000 people globally, with 57 confirmed cases in Hong Kong. One person has died of the virus in the city - one of only five deaths outside mainland China.

Panic buying of toilet paper is sweeping Hong Kong (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Earlier this month, in an attempt to limit the spread of the virus, the Hong Kong government announced it would close some borders with mainland China - sparking fears that supply chains from China would be cut off.

People rushed to supermarkets to load up on supposedly endangered goods such as toilet paper rolls, rice, hand sanitiser, and other cleaning products, according to CNN reports.

Online videos show crowds of people at supermarkets across the city battling to buy toilet rolls, despite government assurances that no shortage exists.

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Many supermarkets have sold out of toilet rolls, food staples, and other crucial goods.

The toilet roll crisis sparked controversy in Hong Kong. After photos circulated on social media of residents hoarding multiple packs, some accused the panic buyers of unnecessarily creating chaos and confusion.

The Hong Kong government condemned "rumour mongers with evil intentions" for sparking the panic. Government measures against the coronavirus outbreak, like travel restrictions and border closures, "will not affect the freight services between the mainland and Hong Kong," it said in a statement.

It added: "There is no need for the public to worry.”

Senior NHS figures warned on Sunday that “millions” of people in the UK could be ordered to “self-isolate” by staying at home for a fortnight if the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise.