- Costco warehouses in South Korea are selling out of surgical masks, as shoppers attempt to combat the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus.
- There have been 15 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in South Korea, and more than 17,000 cases around the world.
- Seoul’s government has been encouraging people to wear masks while in public, as well as wash their hands and cover their mouths while coughing.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
SEOUL, South Korea – Costco locations in South Korea are selling out of surgical masks, as people attempt to stop the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus.
Masks were swiftly selling out at a Costco warehouse in the Yangjae neighbourhood in Seoul – the most popular Costco location in the country – when Business Insider visited on Friday. A pallet of face masks, which had been full at the beginning of the day, was almost empty by 1:30 pm.
Sunmi Goo, a Costco Korea regional marketing manager, told Business Insider on Friday that the masks had quickly become a top seller, as people looked for ways to prevent the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus.
There have been 15 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in South Korea, The Korean Herald reported on Monday morning.
While experts say that masks are not the best way to prevent the spread of the virus, sales of masks have skyrocketed in recent weeks in South Korea and other countries where individuals have been infected by the virus.
Markets and pharmacies in Seoul have been doing a brisk mask business, with stands in Namdaemun market and shops in Myeongdong prominently displaying masks available for sale. According to The Korean Herald, some industry insiders are blaming Chinese tourists and merchants for buying up masks, especially those with superior filtering capacities.
“One Chinese tourist purchased boxes of masks at 4 to 5 million won. Considering each box has around 900 masks, he bought four to five boxes,” an official at a pharmacy in the popular Seoul shopping neighbourhood Myeongdong told The Herald.
Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki spoke out against retailers hiking up prices for surgical masks on Monday, saying that the government will take action against those who gouge prices as demand for hand sanitizer and masks skyrockets.
Signs have been posted around Seoul encouraging people to wear masks, as well as wash their hands frequently and cover their mouth when they cough.
Wearing a mask “is a MUST while using public transportation,” reads a message from the Seoul Metropolitan Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters that popped up when joining a public WiFi network in recent days.
Many restaurants and department stores in Seoul, such as Shinsegae and Lotte Department Store, are requiring all workers to wear masks. Retailers have been working to regularly disinfect stores, and chains including Shinsegae and Shilla Duty Free have closed locations in Seoul and on the island of Jeju after coronavirus-infected people visited the stores.