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Coronavirus fears see hand sanitiser and masks sell-out in Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 17:37 28 February 2020 | UPDATED: 08:58 29 February 2020

Signs in Boots in Castle Quarter which had sold out of hand gels. Pic: Archant

Signs in Boots in Castle Quarter which had sold out of hand gels. Pic: Archant

Fears over coronavirus have sparked a rush on items such as hand gel and protective masks – causing prices to soar as stock sells out across Norfolk.

People wearing face masks on the London Underground, as the first case of coronavirus has been confirmed in Wales and two more were identified in England - bringing the total number in the UK. Pic: Kirsty O'Connor/PA WirePeople wearing face masks on the London Underground, as the first case of coronavirus has been confirmed in Wales and two more were identified in England - bringing the total number in the UK. Pic: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire

It comes as coronavirus, or Covid-19, claimed the first British victim, who had been a tourist on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan.

Meanwhile the economic impact was also being felt as 132 UK firms reported how the virus is causing disruption. Some have curtailed travel and closed offices, factories have slowed production and airlines are cancelling flights.

Some people are preparing for the worst by buying up items. And as a result prices have rocketed - pocket-sized 50ml anti-bacterial hand gels, normally priced £1.50 or less each, are selling for £11.65 each on Amazon.

DIY masks - usually for jobs like sanding and described by some retailers online as 'anti-coronavirus' - are now selling for an eye-watering £50 each.

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One Norwich building supply firm completely sold out after a customer bought all its masks to send to China for relatives caught up in the crisis.

Boots stores and Poundland in Norwich had also sold out of hand gel - with shelves empty. New stock was immediately snapped up even though the retailer limited buyers to two gels per person.

But a spokeswoman from Boots reassured people, saying: "We still have stock available in our warehouses for stores and online. There is currently a limit of two hand sanitisers per customer to ensure as many people as possible have access to them.

A screen at Norwich airport warns arriving passengers of the risk of Coronavirus. Picture: Archant.A screen at Norwich airport warns arriving passengers of the risk of Coronavirus. Picture: Archant.

"The best way to help prevent catching a virus is by making sure that you regularly wash your hands with soap, and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth to prevent transmission from surfaces, especially after blowing your nose, sneezing and coughing. All our pharmacists have the latest public health advice on coronavirus and can offer advice on the best way to stay healthy."

The NHS has published a guide to hand washing available by clicking here

Dentists also reported that their suppliers of face masks - removed and discarded after each patient - were being hiked up in price by as much as three times the usual cost.

A spokeswoman from West Earlham Dental practice said boxes of 50 masks, usually costing just 94p, were now being charged to them at £3 a box. "We have to wear different masks for each patient, it is essential. We have now gone to a different supplier who is offering them at a reduced price from £3."

Darren Bateson, from A&W Cushion, a timber and building supply company in Barn Road, Norwich, said: "We sell builders' dust masks but have now sold out after all the stock was bought by a customer concerned about coronavirus, apparently to send them back to her family in China. We have been in touch with a couple of our suppliers about getting some more, but they say they are completely sold out."

Empty shelves where hand gel has sold out at Boots in London Street, Norwich. Pic: ArchantEmpty shelves where hand gel has sold out at Boots in London Street, Norwich. Pic: Archant

David Kent, floor manager at Thorns DIY, in Exchange Street, Norwich, said there had been a noticeable increase in mask sales. "There is suddenly a lot of people doing sanding. People aren't saying they are buying them for coronavirus." At Screwfix in North Walsham masks are still in stock but being limited to five a person.

But many masks being sold are not even capable of keeping the virus at bay.

William Keevil, professor of environmental healthcare at the University of Southampton, said: "Do not over rely on using standard masks which are surgical masks used in hospitals. They are usually loose fitting, use poor filtration fabrics and give little protection to the wearer other than to restrict touching the nose and mouth, without protecting the eyes.

"If you must, then use a close fitting N95-rated (FFP2) mask which offers good, although not complete, protection and has been shown to work well with the flu virus. Higher standard N99-rated (FFP3) masks offer even better protection.

Empty shelves at Boots in Castle Quarter. Pic; ArchantEmpty shelves at Boots in Castle Quarter. Pic; Archant

"Our published human coronavirus work shows these viruses can survive three-four days on common touch surfaces such as plastics, ceramics, glass and stainless steel (door handles, chair arms, work tops, stair rails etc) making hand transmission to eyes, nose and mouth a potential risk. Therefore, wash hands regularly and clean work surfaces."

For more advice go to this factsheet from the NHS on coronavirus click here


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