Hong Kong men smash car window to steal N95 masks

Facebook/HongKongPoliceForce

With the coronavirus outbreak causing the demand for face masks to skyrocket, it's probably a good idea to keep your valuables close and your face masks closer.

A man was arrested in Hong Kong on Feb 12 for breaking into a parked car and making off with eight boxes of N95 masks, local police announced in a Facebook post.

The victim, 53, reported the incident to the police after discovering that the backseat window of his car had been smashed on Feb 11 and the boxes containing 160 masks were gone.

Following investigations and reviewing of closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage, the police tracked down the first suspect, a 33-year-old man, and arrested him at Sheung Shui.

A second suspect has been identified, said the police, adding that they would "make every effort to bring him to justice".

The brazen theft comes amid a spate of face mask heists in Hong Kong.

On Monday night (Feb 11), a man lost 750 masks worth HK$3,000 (S$536) after placing the boxes of masks on a street corner in Sham Shui Po.

Less than an hour later, another woman reported that over 1,000 face masks had been stolen from her unit at a commercial building in Tsim Sha Tsui.

A businesswoman running an online store also fell victim on Jan 31 when thieves robbed her of 25,000 masks that had been stored in a warehouse.

The city-wide mask shortage saw others resorting to queueing for hours outside pharmacies just to get their hands on some face masks.

In fact, thousands of Hongkongers queued overnight when a Kowloon company announced that it would be selling face masks on Feb 5.

Online rumours warning of impending shortages also sparked panic-buying and hoarding of other staples such as rice, toilet paper, bleach and disinfectant.

As of Feb 12, Hong Kong had 50 confirmed cases of the virus and one related fatality.

For the latest updates on the coronavirus, visit here.

kimberlylim@asiaone.com