Mask Shortage In The West Leads To Long Queues In HK

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2020-03-25 HKT 18:10

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  • Residents of Hong Kong are now sending boxes of face masks to family and friends elsewhere as they face a shortage. Photo: RTHK

    Residents of Hong Kong are now sending boxes of face masks to family and friends elsewhere as they face a shortage. Photo: RTHK

As a shortage of face masks grips the West, long queues are forming here in Hong Kong – outside post offices and courier services to send the much needed protective gear to places like the US and UK.

Instead of parcels and documents, many of those lining up outside branches of DHL and Fedex nowadays are often seen clutching boxes of precious face masks.

In a remarkable turnaround from just a few weeks back, the flow of face masks and sanitisers has reversed.

Hong Kong experienced a shortage of surgical masks in January and February and the city witnessed hours-long queues outside the few shops which had them. Many people overseas then offered help and sent over supplies needed here.

But when the dreaded virus, which spread out of the mainland's Hubei province, eventually reached the shores of Europe and the Americas, these places also started facing the same problem with protective gear.

“Don't you think it's absurd?” asked a woman who was at a DHL office in Central to send two boxes of face masks to her sister in Canada.

“At first they sent some masks from Canada to Hong Kong; and now we are sending some back when there aren't any in Canada,” she said.

She said the 200 masks she is sending may not be enough if the epidemic lasts a long time.

This sentiment was echoed by Nancy, who was also there to send 200 masks to her family in Boston.

Having travelled to the US during Chinese New Year, she said it's quite ironic that she is now sending masks from Hong Kong to the States.

“When I was in the US, I was trying to find some to bring back here. But now they can’t find any [there],” she said. “It is kind of crazy.”

As the demand in the West shoots up, queues outside courier companies here have got longer and longer over the last few days. A worker at one store said that some customers had to wait for hours to send their parcels.

The company has since implemented a ticket system for those who don’t want to waste time waiting in a queue for hours.

But not all parcels are getting to their destinations quickly. One woman, surnamed Wong, said she had tried sending her friend in London some masks, but they are still stuck in Hong Kong.

“I posted the parcel on March 13 and the parcel is still stuck here due to logistical problems,” she said. But some masks she sent to Australia on March 18 had already reached her friend there, Wong said.