An elderly Hong Kong man who contracted the new coronavirus died on Wednesday, authorities announced, the second fatality from the outbreak in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.

“A 70-year-old male patient who was infected with the novel coronavirus deteriorated and succumbed in Princess Margaret Hospital this morning,” the Hospital Authority said in a statement.

Officials said the man was taken to hospital on 12 February after a fall at home. He had a fever and tested positive for the virus, dying a week later.

In mainland China, where the virus first emerged, more than 2,000 people have been killed and 74,000 infected.

Hong Kong has confirmed the virus in 62 patients, two of whom have died. The first infections were largely found within people who had travelled to the epicentre in China’s central Hubei province.

But in recent weeks local infections have increased among residents with no history of travel to China.

Hong Kong is on edge over the virus partly because of its own tragic history of experiencing a deadly disease.

In 2003, 299 Hong Kongers were killed by an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) — 40 percent of the global total fatalities.

The outbreak left deep psychological scars on the tightly packed city and a lasting legacy of distrust towards China’s communist leadership who initially covered up the outbreak.

In the last fortnight, the international business hub has been hit by a wave of panic-buying, with supermarket shelves emptied of staple goods such as toilet paper, hand sanitiser and rice.

Authorities say the supply of goods remains stable and says panic buying is itself causing shortages.

Face masks, however, remain in short supply with queues cropping up across the city whenever a local pharmacy or store announces a new delivery.

– AFP

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