Coronavirus: Not a single face mask available at local pharmacies

By Farida Master

Medical facemasks have sold out in some local retail outlets as fears mount over the spread of the deadly coronavirus that has killed more than 811 people in China and infected 37,198 at the last count.

The death toll has surpassed that of the SARS epidemic, which also began in China, killing 774 people worldwide.

Local pharmacies are reporting a huge shortage of protective face masks and bottles of hand sanitiser.

When the Times contacted pharmacies in Howick and Botany areas, there was not a single respiratory mask available.

Local pharmacies say they’ve exhausted all their sources and don’t know when their next consignment will arrive.

Leanne Steele of Life Pharmacy on Picton Street says all filtering face masks are sold out.

“Most people are looking for N95 face masks and they are long-gone. We are waiting for more stock but they go before we can even stock the shelves.

“A lot of people have placed orders, and we are now are rationing the pre-orders, restricting it to one or two boxes per head, max.

“People may want 10 boxes but we can’t sell them all to one person.

“Most pharmacies are overwhelmed with the demand and we’ve tried to source new suppliers,” some of whom, she admits, have been rather unscrupulous and increased their prices.

“But we try to be as fair as possible with our customers,” says Leanne, who finds that it is not only those who are travelling overseas that are in urgent need of face masks and sanitisers but also people sending boxes of face masks back to China and Hong Kong.

Unichem Pharmacy in Howick is out of stock till April.

A staffer says that fear of coronavirus has triggered a huge demand.

“We’ve never seen so many people walk in for face masks. Besides it is not something we keep huge stock of. “We don’t have any left though we’ve got two big sanitiser bottles left.

“We’ve heard that someone in North Shore is trying to manufacture them so that we can source them locally, but we don’t know much about it right now,” she says.

A newspaper report says that Unichem pharmacies throughout New Zealand have completely run out of stock for face masks as the public prepares for the coronavirus potentially reaching our shores.

The Natural Health Co at Central Terrace, Howick, admits that though they don’t really stock medical face masks, they did try to source them, mainly due to the increasing demand but none of the suppliers had any left.

“They are not available anywhere,” they say.

The Chemist Warehouse in Botany says they are completely out of stock and don’t have a single protective face mask or hand sanitiser in stock. A staffer reveals that all their pharmacies have run out of them.

The Dannemora Pharmacy at Redcastle Drive says that the suppliers have also run out of stock which means they don’t know if they will be restocking on face masks or sanitisers anytime soon.