February 28, 2020 / 9:34 AM / 3 months ago

Hong Kong tycoon to roll out surgical masks as supplies run short

FILE PHOTO: A woman wearing protective mask takes a photo in front of skyline building inside a restaurant, following the outbreak of the new coronavirus, in Hong Kong, China February 24, 2020. Picture taken February 24, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

HONG KONG (Reuters) - A Hong Kong tycoon unveiled plans on Friday to produce 200,000 masks a day from April, to be handed out to residents of the Asian financial hub grappling with scarcity amid a coronavirus outbreak that has killed two people and infected more than 90.

Panic-buying of surgical masks and hand sanitizers has at times left store shelves stripped bare, driving up prices, while armed robbers this month stole hundreds of toilet rolls.

“The fluctuation in prices and unreliability of supply prompted me to make the decision,” Adrian Cheng, heir to the family behind New World Development (0017.HK) and Chow Tai Fook Jewellery (1929.HK), said in a statement.

The plan, directed particularly at low-income families, comes after a group of citizens set up a surgical mask factory, looking to boost supplies and combat price-gouging.

Reporting by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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