CNN  — 

In a video widely circulated earlier this month, a crowd of people swarm a cart of toilet rolls in a Hong Kong supermarket, pushing, shoving, and even elbowing each other out of the way for the coveted goods.

Rumors had spread that toilet paper supply would be cut off due to new border closures with mainland China, implemented in an effort to contain the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The government’s reassurances and calls for order went unheeded as millions of residents, gripped by fear and suspicion, descended on stores citywide to panic buy.

The novel coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China, was first detected in Hong Kong on January 22. Since then, there have been 62 confirmed cases and two deaths in the city.

The numbers are far lower than in mainland China, where at least 1,868 people have died so far – but Hong Kong carries the memories of the deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003, and people aren’t taking any chances.

Face masks have sold out practically everywhere, panicked residents have barricaded themselves at home – and political tensions from the 2019 protests have roared back to life.

Hong Kong had barely begun returning to normal after more than six months of often violent unrest when the outbreak hit.

Now, lingering resentments have collided with the virus to create a perfect storm – a divided society that can’t come together, facing a public health crisis that demands a unified response and a paralyzed government caught in the middle.

Public health crisis turned political