Hong Kong: Knife-wielding thieves steal hundreds of toilet rolls amid coronavirus hysteria
Three masked men stole 600 rolls in about 50 packets from a delivery man outside a Wellcome store in Hong Kong's Mong Kok district.
Hong Kong is currently grappling with short supply of toilet rolls due to panic-buying amid the coronavirus outbreak. To make matters worse, armed robbers in Hong Kong have stolen hundreds of toilet rolls worth more than HKD1,000 ($130).
According to the police, three knife-wielding masked men robbed a delivery man outside a Wellcome store in Mong Kok district early on Monday. The police has arrested two men and recovered some of the stolen loo rolls, local media reports said. Mong Kok has a history of "triad" crime gangs.
According to local reports, the robbers had threatened a delivery worker who had unloaded rolls of toilet paper outside Wellcome Supermarket.
An Apple Daily report said that 600 toilet paper rolls, valued at around HKD1,695 ($218; £167), had been stolen.
Stores across the city have seen supplies massively depleted with long queues when new stock arrives.
Despite government assurances that supplies remain unaffected by the virus outbreak, residents have been stocking up on toilet paper. Other household products have also seen panic-buying including rice, pasta and cleaning items, the BBC reported.
Face masks and hand sanitisers are almost impossible to get as people try to protect themselves from the coronavirus, which has already claimed more than 1,700 lives.
"A delivery man was threatened by three knife-wielding men who took toilet paper worth more than HK$1,000 ($130)," a police spokesman said.
Authorities blame false online rumours for the panic buying and say supplies of food and household goods remain stable.
There has also been some panic-buying of toilet rolls, hand sanitisers and face masks in Singapore, which has 75 confirmed coronavirus cases.
Barrister Albert Luk Wai-hung believed the rolls of toilet paper could be considered valuable items given the supply issues, adding the case itself was serious, South China Morning Post reported.
“Whether it is money or toilet paper being robbed, that’s not the most important consideration by the court.
“Since this incident is likely premeditated and it’s an armed gang robbery, these are all aggravating factors which make the case more serious compared with other robbery cases,” said Luk.
Luk added that robbery carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.