Coronavirus: Do not hoard toilet paper rolls as they can get mouldy, Hong Kong consumer watchdog urges residents amid panic buying

A shopper with a cart brimming with toilet rolls.
PHOTO: South China Morning Post

Hong Kong's consumer watchdog has urged residents not to hoard toilet paper rolls and assured the public that suppliers have increased stocks to meet demand, as the coronavirus outbreak continues to trigger rampant panic buying of essentials.

Consumer Council chief executive Gilly Wong Fung-han also warned that stockpiling toilet rolls would make them susceptible to mould growth.

The call came amid a buyer frenzy in recent weeks, with shoppers snapping up toilet rolls, among other necessities, at supermarkets and pharmacies, fuelled by online rumours that production in mainland China had stopped because of the Covid-19 crisis.

Wong said on a radio programme on Sunday that four to five major toilet paper suppliers in Hong Kong had told them recently that mainland factories had resumed full operations after the Lunar New Year holiday, and there would be sufficient stock in the city.

"[The suppliers] said they have ordered more to meet the higher demand and would be able to replenish stocks to provide people with diversified choices soon," she said.

The council also noted that prices of such items in the city had fluctuated and previous sales promotions by retailers had also ceased.

Wong warned against stockpiling toilet rolls, as the moisture on tissue surfaces could cause mould to grow easily if stored for a prolonged period. "This can happen especially under the humid climate. Mould is hardly visible to the naked eye but can harm our health."

Separately, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, the city's No 2 official put up a blog post on Sunday reassuring residents that Hong Kong had about 25 million kilograms of rice reserves, sufficient to last the population for a month.

"The government will continue to closely monitor food supplies in the market. It is not necessary for citizens to stockpile rice and other daily necessities out of panic," he said.

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Meanwhile, also in a blog post, Hospital Authority chairman Henry Fan Hung-ling said he and his team were scrambling to source for protective gear such as surgical masks and N95 respirators for frontline medical workers.

He added that he "achieved initial results" in such purchases but did not elaborate.

The authority earlier said that their 18 million surgical masks, 2.2 million protective suits and 1.1 million N95 respirators left were enough for one month's usage across all departments.

Fan also called on the public not to tolerate the vandalism of public hospitals and clinics, but to unite and battle the health threat. In the past weeks some designated quarantine facilities and screening clinics were damaged by radical protesters, after residents expressed concern over their proximity to homes.

For the latest updates on the coronavirus, visit here.

This article was first published in the South China Morning Post.