Masks sell out at shops and drug stores across Shanghai

Hu Min
In the wake of a recent virus outbreak in Wuhan, face masks are flying off the shelves at Shanghai supermarkets and drug stores. Market authorities watch for irregularities.
Hu Min
Masks sell out at shops and drug stores across Shanghai
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

A notice at a pharmacy shop on Nanjing Road reads: Masks sold out on Tuesday.

Medical-style face masks have sold out at many pharmacies and supermarkets in Shanghai in the wake of a recent coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, capital city of central China's Hubei Province, and the city's market watchdog said on Tuesday that it's looking into possible price irregularities.

At a Huifeng Pharmacy outlet on Damuqiao Road in Xuhui District, announcements posted on the door inform customers that masks are sold out.

"We just purchased several hundred extra masks from our supplier this morning after our stock was emptied yesterday, and the new ones have sold out quickly as well," a staff member surnamed Shen told Shanghai Daily on Tuesday afternoon.

At the Mixc Shopping Center in Minhang District, Shen Qi, mother of a 5-year-old girl, also found the shelf with masks almost empty.

"The ones left are used to prevent PM2.5 particles, not the virus," she said. "We have masks for adults at home, but not for our child who is more vulnerable. I learned that masks were sold out at many drug stores, so I came here to try my luck."

On platforms like Taobao and JD.com, many sellers indicated that they were out of stock. A store selling masks on Taobao said it had received more than 50,000 orders on Monday and Tuesday, depleting its supplies.

Meanwhile, other products which claim to boost immune system strength have also been popular at drug stores and supermarkets.

The Shanghai Administration for Market Regulation said that officials are monitoring prices.

"We have noticed that prices for masks have soared significantly, and products have sold out at some stores," said Shi Shulu, deputy director of the administration's price supervision and inspection office.

"We are closely following the situation and checking mask prices," he said.

"For behaviors such as stockpiling products, gouging and profiteering, severe punishments will be delivered," said Shi.

Based on China's price law, violators can face up to 3 million yuan (US$435,300) in fines, and have their business license revoked in serious cases, said Shi.

The administration said residents can dial 12315 to report market irregularities.

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