An employee carries boxes of face masks as people queue up to buy face masks at a cosmetics shop in Hong Kong, Thursday, January, 30. The masks in the photo were not part of the seizure.
An employee carries boxes of face masks as people queue up to buy face masks at a cosmetics shop in Hong Kong, Thursday, January, 30. The masks in the photo were not part of the seizure. AP Photo/Vincent Yu

Hong Kong has seized 68,000 surgical masks with an allegedly false manufacturing date from a local pharmacy, according to a police statement.

The estimated market value of the seized masks is HK $380,000 — that’s around US $49,000.

Each box, which has 50 masks, was being sold for HK $280 (US $36).

A 27-year-old man, who was head of the pharmacy, was arrested on Thursday.

The seizure comes after Hong Kong customs officials launched a a large scale city-wide special operation to crack down on stores selling fake surgical masks amid the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak.

Officers with the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department conducted spot checks on almost 200 stores across the city, including pharmacies, chain stores, and other shops that sell the face masks.

Shortages and fears

There have been widespread shortages of the surgical masks across Hong Kong amid the outbreak.

Public fear and paranoia is also growing, with rumors and unverified reports online that some stores are repackaging and reselling used face masks.