- As fears of the Wuhan coronavirus spread, online and brick-and-mortar retailers are selling out of face masks.
- Top-selling face mask companies have warned consumers not to buy counterfeit products.
- Some Amazon sellers peddling face masks are charging about $US50 for a box of 10, selling the masks alongside sex toys like dildos and penis rings.
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The coronavirus is an official global public health emergency, the World Health Organisation announced yesterday, having already made at least 9,000 people sick and killing more than 200 people in China, where it originated.
The announcement likely hasn’t quelled the fears of people who’ve been flocking to online and brick-and-mortar retailers to purchase face masks in an attempt to protect themselves from the disease.
And while experts have said that face masks aren’t necessary or even that effective – hygiene practices like handwashing and keeping a distance from people known to be infected will do – demand for the masks has reportedly exceeded supply in cities across the world. Major internet sellers are also seeing demand outstrip what they’re able to provide.
Top-selling Amazon suppliers PacingMed and BLBM are both sold out, with the companies saying on Amazon that they don’t know “when or if” their products will be back in stock. They have also warned consumers not to purchase counterfeit products, Business Insider reported.
Walmart is also currently sold out of its N95 masks manufactured by 3M.
Amazon sellers appear to be trying to fill the void, selling packages of highly sought-after masks for about $US7 per mask, while reputable suppliers price them at closer to $US1.50.
One Amazon seller offering face masks also sells sex toys
There are two types of masks designed to reduce the spread of diseases: Surgical masks, which shield wearers from some germs in liquids (like spit) in close quarters, and N95 respirators, which filter out airborne particles, though only those larger than the coronavirus, Business Insider reported.
Amazon searches for N95 face masks that are still in stock lead to a seller called Vadomiguel, which is offering 10 medical disposable masks that it claims are antiviral, dust-proof, and anti-smoke for $US50. (By contrast, supply companies like Uline sell them at about $US1.50 per mask.) Vadomiguel’s other offerings include vibrators and dildos.
Another seller called Nice-Components is selling 10 masks for $US50. Otherwise, it appears to mostly sell things like pressure cooker accessories and belt glove clips for construction workers.
In addition to being a drain on the wallet, the mask shortage is troubling because it could keep people who actually need masks, like medical workers treating patients with respiratory illnesses, from acquiring them.
As a result, the fears fuelling the mask shortage may be realised, the New York Times reported, as those workers are more likely to get, and spread, the disease.
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