As the number of people falling victim to the Wuhan virus rises, stocks of surgical face masks are plunging across Asia, as anxious citizens form snaking queues at supermarkets and pharmacies to stock up.
Over the past week, netizens claim masks have sold at out most stores in cities like Singapore, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, with many uploading photos and videos of the insane queues that have formed in stores still offering precious stocks of the item.
As the Wuhan virus sweeps across China, citizens have begun wearing masks en masse to protect themselves, leading to a nationwide shortage of the product.
In Shanghai, snaking queues at pharmacies started forming as early as Wednesday (Jan 22).
Queues for the masks are so incredibly long that videos of them are going viral on social media, such as this one taken on a motorbike on Thursday (Jan 30), which has already racked up 26,000 views.
Long line of people buying masks instead of the state providing them. Want to guess how many infected are in that line without masks? Slow it down and see🧐#WuhanVirus #coronavirus #coronaphobia #coronovirusoutbreak #CoronavirusOutbreak #CoronaVirusCanada pic.twitter.com/gYwdPMQpL6
— Harry Chen PhD (@IsChinar) January 30, 2020
In some places, fights even broke out in queues as tensions flared between anxious customers.
— Bashir King Jamal (@Bashir_King) January 28, 2020
A Jan 28 video by Chinese political activist Badiucao showed a crowd in Jiujiang – a city near Wuhan currently under lockdown – pushing and shoving against a metal gate to buy face masks from factory personnel.
Video from 九江 Jiujiang，JiangXi province,135kms away from #wuhan，the city locked down due to #coronoavirus.
People rush to the face mask factory to buy products directly. Could be panic residents or greedy people who want to benefit from crisis. But it reflects the situation. pic.twitter.com/NfQ0G8AKvA
— 巴丢草 Badiucao (@badiucao) January 28, 2020
In neighbouring Hong Kong, jaw-dropping queues were photographed across the city, such as this one in the Tai Po district on Jan 29.
Hongkongers are desperate for masks for protection against Coronavirus. An example in Taipo district. pic.twitter.com/6z26QpUUCN
— Yan K (@YanK81350025) January 29, 2020
The same scene unfolded in Choi Ming Mall in Hong Kong’s Tiu Keng Leng area earlier on Jan 24.
Netizens said it was normal to have queues form rapidly anytime people discovered a store had stocks of face masks.
Bravo HK Gov to continue pushing a stupid agenda while a real health crisis is unfolding. Is it normal to see large queue as soon as a shop has stock of mask (photo Choi Ming Mall Tiu Keng Leng yesterday afternoon) – Macau seems to have in place a more reasonable approach… pic.twitter.com/U5x4svXFsg
— Poohsticks (@lepoohsticks) January 25, 2020
The queues in malls were not limited to just one floor, but stretched across multiple storeys and even outdoors.
According to netizens, queues could easily last four hours long, with some people still walking away empty-handed.
People queuing for an opportunity to buy a box of face mask. Poor HKers! pic.twitter.com/x2UcogckhX
— WI (@wi_winnie_ip) January 29, 2020
One two-minute video showed the insane length of the queues, with some shoppers even bringing their own foldable chairs to sit on while waiting in line.
— Julian (@julianisnew) January 29, 2020
A Twitter photo taken in the Philippines’ capital of Manila showed people crowding a hospital corridor to purchase masks.
“They ran out of masks at [two pharmacies] so we’re here at St. Luke’s Medical Center, and the queue is so long we’re all filling up the hallway,” the user wrote.
they ran out of masks at sm aura and mercury drug bgc so we're here at st. luke's and the queue is so long we're all filling up the hallway already 🙁 hope everyone has acquired face mask supplies too pic.twitter.com/ruInMZS7BM
— celina 🌸 (@heoljisoo) January 12, 2020
Over in Singapore, lengthy queues also materialised, despite the Government telling citizens they did not require masks unless they showed symptoms of illness.
This is the queue for face mask at watsons pic.twitter.com/arrhpPdbhO
— wy (@benjoeee) January 29, 2020
Despite assurances that there were sufficient mask stocks in the country, many locals voiced doubt online, saying stores were all sold out.
The queue for mask currently in SG. pic.twitter.com/qdQB8kbILY
— Keyell Jeyespi (@keyelljeyespi) January 26, 2020
Videos revealed scenes similar to those in Hong Kong and Shanghai, with queues wending through malls and ending in beleaguered pharmacy outlets.
No, this is not the queue to buy lottery tickets.
This is the line to buy a face mask in Singapore
📷 – Clementi Mall, Singapore pic.twitter.com/GegwnoymYt
— Mamidre! at the Discø (@Mami_AtTheDisco) January 29, 2020