The Business of Fear: Face Mask Prices in UAE Surge to $190 Due to Coronavirus Panic

Published February 2nd, 2020 - 11:53 GMT
The Business of Fear: Face Mask Prices in UAE Surge to $190 Due to Coronavirus Panic
Major retailers and medical supply stores are reporting medical mask shortages. (AFP)

Virologists have stressed that washing your hands with soap regularly is more effective than wearing masks when it comes to protecting yourself from the novel coronavirus outbreak. Despite this, the Consumer Protection Unit in Dubai reported receiving complaints regarding a spike in mask prices in some pharmacies around the city, as panic buyers purchase unprecedented quantities.

A few days after the United Arab Emirates reported its first cases of the coronavirus, many Dubai residents filed complaints against drug stores selling face masks for higher than usual prices - as high as $190 a box - urging authorities to take action that keeps masks and other products related to the coronavirus at reasonable prices.

Last week, the UAE confirmed its first cases of the 2019-nCoV virus, stating that all those infected hard only just arrived in the country, coming all the way from China. Emirati authorities suggested that residents take needed measures to stay healthy and to remain cautious when leaving their homes.

In addition to washing hands with soap and water every few hours, people are also encouraged to be aware of the different symptoms of the new virus, such as coughing and fever, and to call healthcare providers in case an infection is suspected.

Even though healthcare experts have been advising people against relying on paper, surgical, or N95 face masks to prevent the spread of the new virus, and have been recommending washing with soap instead, mask sales seem to be rising all over the world.

Major retailers and medical supply stores reported medical mask shortages, amid warnings that consuming masks at this rate might put health workers at serious risk, as it will be harder for them to obtain masks needed to perform their daily tasks.

Authorities in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Australia, Britain, and other countries have also reported panic buying of face masks and hand sanitizers, citing people's efforts to combat the deadly new disease as the main reason for the surging sales. According to Marketwatch, Alibaba-owned retailer Taobao has sold upward of 80 million face masks a day.

But this isn't the only booming business that's profiting from the virus. Some are even selling merchandise featuring corona-related designs. Etsy customers, for example, noticed T-shirts with the message 'I survived the Coronavirus 2020' for sale on the website.

Last Thursday, the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak was declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization, following thousands of confirmed cases in China and elsewhere, and about 300 deaths in China and one dead patient in the Philippines.

The novel coronavirus often referred to as the Wuhan corona is believed to be a new strain of the SARS respiratory virus that spread in China between 2002 and 2003, killing nearly 800 people worldwide.

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