An unexpected surge of Covid infections in China has resulted in widespread medication shortages, as people rush to buy fever and pain relievers to treat flu-like symptoms.
The panic purchasing has spread outside mainland China, with generic Tylenol and Advil selling out at drugstores in Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, and as far away as Australia, leading some local pharmacies to curtail sales. People seeking ways to counteract Covid are even buying home cures such as canned peaches, CNN reported.
The scenario is similar to the shortages encountered in the United States and Canada for children’s pain relievers, which are in high demand due to the spread of respiratory illnesses.
The health chief of Hong Kong urged the public to refrain from hoarding cold medicines, asking them “not to overact.”
At five drugstores in the commercial district of Wan Chai, the drug Panadol, the local brand name for Tylenol, has been sold out for two weeks, salespersons told CNN. One salesman, who gave his name as Simon, said the shortage was due to buyers purchasing in bulk to send to their friends and relatives in the mainland.
CNN reported that when his store does manage to get hold of some supply, he is able to provide delivery to longstanding customers in China through a complex process that takes about two weeks, costing between HK$150 ($19) to HK$200 ($26) per 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds).
“We send the drugs by mail to Macao, where our agents pick it up and then hand deliver it across the border to Zhuhai,” he said, adding that the couriers must quarantine once they arrive on the mainland.
In Macao, the drug regulator ordered pharmacies last week to limit purchases of pain relievers, fever medicines and antigen test kits. The order came after residents complained about empty shelves when they were looking for cold and fever medicines, CNN reported citing Exmoo News, a local newspaper.
According to CNN, china is dealing with its worst outbreak since the start of the pandemic, with analysts from investment bank Nomura describing the situation as “nationwide chaos.”