It is reminiscent of the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Queues form at the crack of dawn every morning in front of supermarkets across Hong Kong, with people scrambling to lay their hands on the basics: rice, toilet rolls and disinfectant.

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For the third week in a row, supermarkets shelves that usually heave with bags of rice – a staple food for Hong Kongers – are empty, and packs of noodles are running out too, although there is still plenty of meat and vegetables.

Shelves for toilet paper, tissues, kitchen towels, baby wipes, hand soaps, alcohol hand rubs and cleaning agents such as bleach, floor cleaning liquid and all manners of disinfectants and antiseptic products in supermarkets and pharmacies are also bare. Supermarkets have started implementing a rationing policy limiting customers to two items of the products in short supply.

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