Global run on face masks
BEIJING: Fear of the spreading coronavirus has led to a global run on sales of face masks despite medical experts’ advice that most people who aren’t sick don’t need to wear them.
Many businesses are sold out, while others are limiting how many a customer can buy. Amazon is policing its site, trying to make sure sellers don’t gouge panicked buyers.
In South Korea, hundreds lined up to buy masks from a discount store. Rumors that toilet paper and napkins could be used as masks have emptied store shelves in Asia of paper goods over the past few weeks.
Ordinary people trying to protect themselves from the outbreak are not the only ones encountering shortages. Some health care professionals are seeing them as well.
Some industry officials are attributing the shortages not just to high demand but to disruptions in supply: an outsize share of the world’s surgical masks are made in China — 50%, by its own estimate — and some of the factories are in or near the hard-hit city of Wuhan and have been shut down for weeks because of the crisis, they said.
It’s unclear, however, just how big an impact that is having overall, as other regions and countries ramp up production to meet soaring demand. - AP