Surge In Covid Infections In China Triggers Widespread Drugs Shortage


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.”

The news report said that a CNN journalist visited a dozen drugstores in various districts across Taipei on Tuesday night, without managing to find a single box of Panadol. Lin, a shop assistant at the Kawaki Drug Store in the center of the city, said demand surged over the past two weeks.

“We have always faced a supply shortage of Panadol since the Covid-19 outbreak, but the situation has become a lot more acute,” CNN reported quoting Lin. “Some customers told us that they wanted to send the pills to their relatives and friends in China, given the situation there.”

Another pharmacist in Taipei’s Xinyi district, I Li-Chen, told CNN that her drugstore had received many questions about Panadol pills recently.

“Some people wanted to buy the pills because they wanted to send them to relatives in China, while others needed them because they had to visit China soon,” she said.

Chinese authorities on Monday started announcing the first Covid-related deaths since the easing of pandemic restrictions on December 7. Only a few deaths have been reported so far, even though there have been media reports of crematoriums across the country being strained with an influx of bodies and long lines at the city’s hospitals and fever clinics.