Supermarket shelves emptied of epidemic survival products as residents fear possible lockdown

People rushed to supermarkets this evening, Wednesday, May 12, to stock up on supplies of products such as instant noodles, toilet paper, and disinfectant alcohol after the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) raised the epidemic alert warning to Level 2, and the mayor of New Taipei City hinted that a city-wide lockdown could happen.

CECC Director Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) told the media this morning that Taiwan could soon be under an epidemic warning Level 3, after 16 cases tested positive for COVID-19 today, and some could not be traced to previous cases, indicating that the virus was already circulating in the wider community.

“Taiwan currently has more than two chains of transmission for which we have yet to identify their sources. We are in critical condition now, and this is not a joke,” Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) told legislators at a session of Taiwan’s parliamentary body, the Legislative Yuan today.

New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi announced that all activity and sports centers, libraries, Internet cafes, and nightlife venues should remain closed until June 8 in line with the Level 2 warning.

Mayor Hou said that he is keeping a close eye on developments, and if there are signs that the community infection is out of control, does not rule out a city-wide lockdown.

A supermarket in New Taipei City cleared of instant noodles, May 12, 2021. Picture: Facebook group “On the Road Observation Academy.”

The Mayor’s comments, in particular, sparked an after-work rush to supermarkets across New Taipei City, leading to empty shelves seen in many supermarkets around the city.

Fresh produce, instant noodles, alcohol-based disinfectant, surgical masks, and of course, toilet paper, were among products cleaned off shelves.

Pictures of emptied shelves proliferated on social media where people left comments such as, “the end of the world again?” “Is there a war?” “I thought a typhoon was coming.”

Empty shelves at a supermarket in Danshui (Tamsui) District, New Taipei City, May 12, 2021. Picture: “Talking about Danshui” Facebook group.

The current Level 2 warning limits outdoor events to less than 500 people, and indoor events to a maximum of 100. No eating and drinking on buses and trains, masks and social distancing is required in crowded public spaces and all stores, no visits to hospitalized patients, and takeout instead of dine-in at restaurants is recommended, under the Level 2 alert.

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