ParknShop, one of Hong Kong’s largest supermarket chains, and flagship dispensary company Watsons have introduced a purchase limits on certain food and medicine products, citing manpower shortages due to Covid-19 infections among staff.

Near-empty shelves previously with meat in a supermarket in Kennedy Town. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

From Friday onwards, each customer is only allowed to buy five products under each category of rice, canned food, noodles, boxed eggs, paper tissues and medicines in a single purchase from a ParknShop branch. At Watsons, each person can purchase a maximum of five pain, fever, cold or flu medicines.

Panic buying has continued across the city since Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan said on Monday that a citywide lockdown is “under consideration.” Governemnt sources then leaked details to the media about the proposed lockdown set to be imposed during the upcoming compulsory universal testing scheme. The authorities went on to blame “rumours” for the panic in the supermarket aisles.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam sought to reassure citizens that a “wholesale” city lockdown would not be implemented. She also said daily supplies were sufficient and urged people not to panic buy or “believe in rumours.”

Outside a Sham Shui Po ParkNShop. Photo: Wikicommons.

ParknShop said it has increased sourcing and ordering in view of the recent rapid increase in demand for various products, adding that the supply of food and daily products have remained stable.

However, the two chains said they were facing acute staff shortages as the coronavirus outbreak has affected frontline and logistics employees. They said they would seek to mobilise more manpower to speed up product replenishment and logistics.

As of Thursday, the city has reported 293,370 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 1,358 deaths.

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