An unprecedented surge of Covid cases in China has sparked panic buying of fever medicine, painkillers, and even home remedies like canned peaches, which lead to shortages online and in stores.
Authorities said Wednesday they had detected 2,249 symptomatic cases of Covid-19 nationwide through nucleic acid testing, 20 percent of which were detected in the capital Beijing. CNN reports from the city indicate that the case count in the Chinese capital could be much higher than recorded.
Request Fever and cold meds, such as Tylenol and Advil, are ramping up nationwide as people scramble to stockpile drugs in fear they might catch the virus.
Canned yellow peaches, considered a particularly nutritious delicacy in many parts of China, have been bought by people looking for ways to fight Covid. The product is currently out of stock on many online stores.
Its sudden surge in popularity prompted Dalian Leasun Food, one of the country’s largest canned food producers, to clarify in a Weibo post that canned yellow peaches have no medicinal effect.
“Canned yellow peaches ≠ medicine!” the company said in the post published on Friday. “There is enough supply, so there is no need to panic. There’s no rush to buy.”
Even the Quotidiano del Popolo, spokesman for the Communist Party, has tried to set the record straight. He published a lengthy post on Weibo on Sunday urging the public not to hoard peaches, calling them “useless to alleviate the symptoms of the disease.”
Authorities also pleaded with the public not to stockpile medical supplies. On Monday, the Beijing city government warned residents it was facing “great pressure” to meet the demand for drugs and medical services amid panic buying and the influx of patients into clinics.
He urged the public not to stockpile drugs or call 911 if they have no symptoms.
The growing demand and shortage of supply of Covid remedies have fueled bets on drug makers.
Shares of Hong Kong-listed Xinhua Pharmaceutical, China’s largest ibuprofen maker, have gained 60% in the past five days. The stock has so far jumped 147% in the first two weeks of this month.
“Our company’s production lines are running at full capacity and we are working overtime to produce urgent medicines, such as ibuprofen tablets,” Xinhua Pharmaceutical said on Monday.
Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory drug used to treat pain and fever. It is also known as Advil, Brufen or Fenbid.
The drug shortage has spread from mainland China to Hong Kong, a special administrative region that has a separate local government system. On Sunday, the city’s health chief urged the public to refrain from panic buying cold medicine they don’t need and urged residents “not to overdo it.”
In some Hong Kong pharmacies, fever medicines such as Panadol, the local brand of Tylenol, have sold out. Most of the buyers were sending the medicines to their families and friends on the mainland, sales representatives told CNN.
Shares of Shenzhen-listed Guizhou Bailing Group Pharmaceuticals, known for producing cough syrups, gained 21% this week and 51% so far this month. Yiling Pharmaceutical, the sole maker of Lianhua Qingwen, a traditional Chinese medicine recommended by the government for the treatment of Covid, also jumped more than 30% in the past month.
Funeral and grave service providers also got a huge boost. Shares of Hong Kong-listed Fu Shou Yuan International, China’s largest funeral services company, are up more than 50% from last month.
There is “strong pent-up demand for burial sites” in 2023, Citi Group analysts said in a recent research report, adding they noted growing investor interest in the sector.
They cited the existence of hundreds of thousands of cremated remains, which are being temporarily stored in government facilities awaiting burial. Lockdowns across much of the country have halted funeral services, they said.