The demand for protective face masks in the UK has appeared to spike over fears about coronavirus, as pharmacies look to boost “sold out” stocks.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) is expected to reconvene its emergency committee on Thursday to decide whether to declare an international public health emergency.
On the Boots website, a six-pack of “safe & sound” surgical face masks has already sold out – accompanied by a note that they will not be receiving any further stock.
Another product on the Boots website – a box of 50 masks – is also sold out and will not be restocked either.
Boots said surgical face masks are available to order in stores as a special line from the pharmacy counter.
They added that they are “working to make additional stock available for customers to purchase in store and on boots.com which we hope will land over the next week”.
A spokesperson told Yahoo News UK: “The best way to help prevent catching a virus is by making sure 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.
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“Surgical face masks are normally available on request from Boots stores and customers can order from our pharmacy counters, depending on stock availability.
“All our pharmacists have the latest public health advice on coronavirus and can offer advice on the best way to stay healthy this winter.”
A branch of B&Q in London also appeared to be low on stocks of face masks, with racks empty on Wednesday evening.
And on Amazon.co.uk, a pack of 12 “anti virus” flu surgical face masks is sold out, with the retailer saying they do not know when the item will be back in stock,
However, there are other masks available on the site.
In Wuhan, China – where cases of the virus were first recorded – the death toll has risen to 170.
Brits who were hoping to fly home from Wuhan remain in China after officials refused permission for their flight to take off.
So far, 73 tests for suspected cases of the virus in the UK have all come back negative.
A poster on the WHO website, under the heading Stay Healthy While Travelling, offers advice on using face masks.
It reads: “If you choose to wear a face mask, be sure to cover mouth and nose – avoid touching mask once it’s on.
“Immediately discard single-use mask after each use and wash hands after removing masks.”