A YORK pharmacy has sold thousands of face masks as concerns grow about the deadly coronavirus outbreak in China.
Monk Bar Pharmacy in Goodramgate has had a steady stream of customers – mainly Chinese tourists and students – visiting to buy surgical and other face masks since the middle of last week, and it had sold more than 2,000 by yesterday (Monday).
Some customers have travelled to the store from as far away as Leeds and some have bought up to 50 masks at a time, perhaps for coach parties of tourists, said manager Vikki Furneaux.
She said the shop already had some in stock when demand started to rise last week and it had then repeatedly ordered more supplies after they began selling out. As an independent pharmacy, Monk Bar had the benefit of being able to access more wholesalers and suppliers and while it had sold out of surgical masks, it hoped to replenish stocks by mid-week.
She said some customers had been taking photographs of the front of the shop, presumably to post on Chinese social media to let others know about it, and the masks ranged in price from 50p to £5 for ones with replaceable filters.
She said staff recommended that people followed advice issued by the Department of Health, which currently did not include the wearing of masks by members of the public in the UK.
“All masks sold meet the international standards requested by the customers,” she added.
Professor Yvonne Doyle, medical director and director of health protection for Public Health England, has claimed that washing hands with soap and water is more effective than wearing a face mask but conceded they were important for staff to use in hospitals when dealing with suspected cases.
She said the first UK case was likely to come from somebody already in the country.
“Our view is that, although airports are important, the most likely place that we might find a case is somebody in the country already.”
A spokeswoman for the University of York, which has hundreds of Chinese students, said yesterday it had issued information to students and staff about coronavirus, common signs of infection, and actions to take should anyone be concerned.
“We are providing advice in accordance with Public Health England and Foreign Office guidelines,” she said.
“We continue to monitor the global situation closely and we will update all students and staff with further information as it becomes available.”
York St John University, which has a smaller number of Chinese students, said last week it was conscious that anyone planning travel to or from China needed access to information and advice about the outbreak and it had asked all students and staff to pay close attention to advice and updates from the Foreign Office.
The Press yesterday asked York Hospital whether it was making any preparations for dealing with any possible case of coronavirus but a spokeswoman referred it to the Department of Health, which was managing communications on a national basis. However, a department spokesman said he had no information about what was happening in York.