Major cities in China and Australia were hit with a serious shortage of face masks Friday as the number of people infected by the deadly coronavirus surged, according to reports.
Residents flocking to pharmacies to shield themselves from the disease in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Brisbane found empty shelves and high prices — as the death toll rose to at least 26, according to CNN and other outlets.
“The supply of face masks during the Lunar New Year is highly uncertain,” said Horace Lau, vice president of Hong Kong’s General Chamber of Pharmacies, referencing the country’s Jan. 25 festival.
He said his shop sold more than 10,000 boxes of face masks in the past week, and that pharmacies have started raising prices because supplies are limited.
Shanghai residents also face challenges finding the “hard to buy” protective gear, according to the BBC, which shot footage of a long line of customers snaking around a block outside a local pharmacy.
To combat the shortage, the makers of CMmask, where some of the medical supplies are made in Jiande, East China, offered factory workers three times the salary to they work extra hours.
“We have increased working hours by four hours, from 8am to 9pm,” said Hu Qinghui, deputy general manager of CMmask.
Demand for face masks also surged in Brisbane, as several pharmacies ran out of stock, according to abc.net.au.
In Australia, the shortage is linked to virus fears along with low air quality after devastating bushfires tore across parts of the continent, said Chris Campbell of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Queensland.
To avoid the virus — which has infected at least 830 people worldwide — hand-washing is more crucial than wearing a face mask, he said.
“Keep up that hand hygiene, and by that it’s just making sure we’re always washing our hands if we’ve been in areas with contact with other people,” he said.
With Post wires
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