Chinese buying up cold medicine overseas

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Stocks of painkillers are low at a drugstore in Taito Ward, Tokyo, on Saturday.

TOKYO/GUANGZHOU — Chinese people are buying huge quantities of cold medicine in countries like Japan and Thailand, spurred by the severe drug shortage in their nation amid the rapid increase in novel coronavirus infections.

This so-called bakugai, which literally means explosive buying, has been taking place over the past week or so, with Chinese people buying medicine for their families and acquaintances back home.

On Saturday, Chinese people were lined up at the register for duty-free customers at a drugstore in Ameyoko shopping district in Ueno, Tokyo, where there are many drugstores. They used their smartphones to show sales clerks the cold medicines they wanted to buy.

A man from Fujian Province, 33, who was in Tokyo on vacation, bought about ¥10,000 worth of antipyretics and painkillers.

“Japanese medicines are popular because they make you feel better immediately after you take them. I want to send them to my family right away,” he said.

Taisho Pharmaceutical Co.’s Pabron Gold A, a cold remedy that relieves fever symptoms, is particularly popular. Many visitors to Japan bought it as a souvenir even before the pandemic. The drugstore in the Ameyoko district established a limit of two per person last week, when the product became scarce.

In Hong Kong, more people are using pharmacies that deliver antigen test kits to mainland China.

Demand for the kits, which can be used at home, increased after venues that offer PCR testing closed in many Chinese cities. A drugstore employee was surprised by the unexpected windfall and said one customer bought a box of 800 kits.

According to Hong Kong media reports, Chinese people have been buying medicine also in Singapore, Taiwan and Australia, raising concerns that patients infected with a cold may not be able to purchase medicine. A drugstore manager in Bangkok, 25, said a Chinese person bought all the stock in the store.

According to South Korean newspaper JoongAng Ilbo, rumors have spread in the country that Chinese individuals are trying to buy cold medicine in bulk directly from pharmaceutical companies and wholesalers for export purposes.

“We’re closely monitoring [the domestic supply and demand situation in South Korea] in response to the sudden change in the COVID-19 situation in China,” a South Korean government source said.