A tsunami of coronavirus infections in China is causing shortages of key drugs across the region as relatives and friends living overseas ship painkillers and anti-virals from abroad, driving up prices and forcing some stores to cap purchases.
South Korea’s health ministry warned Wednesday that it would punish the sale of "excessive amounts” of cold medicine to an individual patient, after local media reported that a Chinese customer had bought 6 million won ($4,760) worth of drugs in Hanam city in Gyeonggi Province. Some pharmacies in Taiwan are running low on Panadol cold and flu tablets, while Bloomberg News visited 20 dispensaries in Hong Kong that were out of Panadol and Coltalin pills.
Beijing’s decision to abruptly remove most pandemic restrictions with little preparation is driving an unprecedented number of cases, leaving hospitals and funeral homes overwhelmed. Almost 37 million people were possibly infected on a single day last week, according to estimates from the government’s top health authority. That’s led to a dearth of critical over-the-counter (OTC) medicines locally, fueling the surge in cross-border shipments.