SOLD OUT: Aihe Hanlen of Life Pharmacy puts a sign on the shelf informing customers that they have run out of face masks. Photos Kathy Forsyth D9541-01/02

PHARMACIES in Whakatane appear to have run out of face masks while hand sanitiser is disappearing fast off shelves as fears over the novel coronavirus outbreak grow.

A Whakatane man said he had been to or contacted pharmacies in Whakatane ahead of his trip overseas but could not find any masks to purchase.

The shortage of masks was confirmed by three pharmacies contacted by the Beacon.

Life Pharmacy technician Emily Ritson said they sold out of masks last weekend.

“I think we had three or four boxes of about 50 each and that was sold out in two days,” she said.

“We have found a lot of people who are buying our face masks are travelling, either back to China, or are just travelling in general so they are just trying to be extra-prepared,” she said.

She said some people had also been looking for masks to send back to family overseas.

Good news, though, is that the pharmacy is expecting to get more masks in by the end of the week

“We have managed to get some more in from a different company from our normal wholesaler … but the wholesaler that we [usually] order them from, which most other pharmacies do as well, said they would be out of stock for two months.

“We haven’t had any stock since about last weekend, but every single day people are coming in and asking.

“Hand sanitiser is another item that we are sold out of as well.”

Ms Ritson said one customer had been to about six pharmacies but had not been able to obtain masks.

A pharmacist from another pharmacy that had run out of hand sanitiser and masks said they were trying to restore calm amid the rising fears about the virus.

The pharmacist said the coronavirus group of viruses had been around a long time, although the novel coronavirus was a new variant of it.

“The flu virus kills more people than coronavirus,” the pharmacist said.

“We are having people trying to buy [masks] and send them overseas and they are panicking.”

The pharmacist said people were particularly trying to obtain the Dettol brand of hand sanitiser as that had “coronavirus” listed among the viruses and bacteria it “kills”.

SIGN OF THE TIMES Face masks and hand sanitiser are in short supply.

“The coronavirus has been around a while it is not a newbie; it is a variant.”

The pharmacist said the masks would not stop a person contracting the disease.

“Unless you wear a proper respiratory mask if someone spits on you it can still go through [the mask]; particles can still go through. It stops people transmitting [the virus] but it doesn’t stop people getting it.”

Total Health pharmacy still had a few bottles of hand sanitiser left, although no masks. It was also expecting new stock later this week although people were already on a waiting list for the masks.

Pharmacies will also be limiting how many people can purchase the masks and giving people who are travelling overseas priority.

The Ministry of Health has information on the virus and advice for travellers on its website: www.health.govt.nz

It says, “There are no confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV in New Zealand to date but the likelihood of importing a case is high.”

It is advising that people do not travel to China and is denying entry into New Zealand to anyone who has travelled from China.

kathy.forsyth@thebeacon.co.nz