Hong Kong Customs say they have been investigating a Japanese “Virus Shut Out” necklace for almost three months, though have yet to take action despite bans around the world.

Retailers have defended selling Toamit’s “anti-viral” product during the coronavirus pandemic, which the manufacturer claims is “experimentally proven to effectively block airborne particles and bacteria, as well as various epidemic viruses… reducing the chance of being infected or infecting others.”

A 7-Eleven store in Central. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

The device has been banned by eBay and Facebook and by several US territories, whilst both Vietnamese and Thai authorities have confiscated them.

A Customs spokesperson told HKFP on Monday that it “always takes time when conducting [a] investigation, especially for cases involving scientific and technological issues which require assistance from experts in verifying the accuracy of trade descriptions applied to a product.”

“Appropriate enforcement action will be taken pending the investigation results,” they added.

The product is worn around the neck and contains chlorine dioxide, but Dr Ariane Davison – a virologist and immunologist – told HKFP that the necklace is a “complete scam,” adding that it “will do nothing to protect you by inactivating respiratory viruses.”

Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Customs, who have been investigating since March 13, said that over 4,900 officers have been mobilised to conduct over 32,000 inspections at retail spots, manufacturers and online traders during the Covid-19 outbreak.

The product remains available across Hong Kong at Bonjour stores, SASA, at 7-Eleven convenience stores, on HKTV mall and from Watsons pharmacies, for under HK$100. Toamit did not respond to enquires in March.

Speedy action

The delays come despite swift action being taken against Isaac Cheng of pro-democracy Demosisto who was arrested last month on suspicion of violating the Trade Descriptions Ordinance after his group sold face masks labelled as “not made in China.”

Photo: Demosisto.

The 20-year-old was arrested on May 25 for allegedly failing to prove the specifications and country of origin of the masks, which were being sold online.

A customs spokesperson said the move – also part of the “Guardian” operation – was prompted by complaints, though the masks were safe to use.

Officers seized 32,725 masks valued at HK$93,500. Demosisto called the action “political censorship.”

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Tom is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications & New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Quartz, Global Post and others.