$3 item stripped from shelves in ‘panic’
Chemists across Australia are experiencing an unexpected demand for a $3 household item as coronavirus panic sets in.
A shortage of hand sanitiser is being witnessed in multiple retailers across the country as people rush to stock up in a bid to protect themselves from the deadly COVID-19 virus sweeping the globe.
Shoppers have shared photos from inside various Coles, Woolworths and Chemist Warehouse stores that show the antibacterial gel stripped completely bare from shelves.
Craig Jones, the CEO and founder of Australian skin care range MooGoo, said their entire six-month stock of back antibacterial hand gel has been snapped off chemist shelves in just four days.
"We then made a backup batch and sold out of that too," said Mr Jones told news.com.au. "The Natural Anti-Bacterial Hand Gel uses an essential oil that kills 99.999 per cent of pathogens in the standard test."
Mr Jones described the healthcare item - which retails anywhere between $3-$15 dependant on brand and bottle size - as "one of the key measures from keeping the virus from spreading", stating it's not just his business that is struggling to keep up with demand.
A spokesperson from Coles confirmed the "shortage" to news.com.au, explaining it was affecting antibacterial handwashes and hand sanitiser products sold in stores "due to extremely high customer demand".
"While we are working closely with our suppliers to improve availability, some products may be temporarily out of stock," the spokesperson said.
Woolworths also confirmed the situation, telling news.com.au: "We are currently experiencing shortages of some antibacterial hand wash and sanitiser products in our stores due to higher than usual customer demand.
"We are working very closely with our suppliers to get these products back on shelves as quickly as possible. We're sorry for the inconvenience to our customers."
News of the shortage - which comes after a leading virologist warned Australians to stock up on essentials to prepare for home quarantine - is sparking concern on social media.
"People are starting to panic buy hand sanitisers and surgical masks," one person wrote earlier this month.
"Please make sure your home is well equipped to deal with emergency and have your own plan in place before it's too late. Coles and Chemist 'Warehouse' sold out. Please be prepared folks and god bless."
Others shared similar experiences in Woolworths, Kmart, and Big W, on Twitter.
Woolworths, Coles, Chemist Warehouse, Priceline and Kmart have all run out of hand sanitiser. #coronavirusaustralia— Priscilla Flett (@FlettPriscilla) February 1, 2020
Hand sanitiser aisle at Woolworths. All gawn. pic.twitter.com/sJrdl4wfes— Ignoble Jim Houghton (@JimRHoughton) February 1, 2020
Good luck buying Dettol hand sanitiser in Australia right now. Someone in my local area has been wiping the shelves clear of Dettol in every single store in just one purchase. Who needs 200 bottles of hand sanitiser?? To send to overseas maybe like the baby formula? Disgusting 😡— B 🦋 (@brontesh_) January 27, 2020
To cope with the unprecedented demand for product, some pharmacies have been forced to issue a limit on the number of bottles per customer.
One Chemist Warehouse in Fortitude Valley has a sign restricting shoppers to three bottles per day, The Courier Mail discovered recently.
Mario Tascone, the Retail Group director for Chemist Warehouse told The Courier Mail "that store was one of the smart ones".
"We'd rather satisfy 1000 people than satisfy one person who wants to buy 1000 bottles," he said.
Meanwhile, other companies have been reportedly jacking up the price as Australians start to stockpile key household items fearing a coronavirus pandemic, according to a report by Daily Mail Australia.
Similar troubles have hit other countries too, with UK chemist Boots imposing a two bottle limit on hand sanitiser, to try and handle the situation. On Twitter, UK and Irish residents are reporting queuing as long as 30 minutes to get one bottle - while others share photos of baron shelves.
Local store... Where the hand sanitiser should be. pic.twitter.com/vc4Nl1dEQP— Paul Smith 🇬🇧 (@PJSmith) February 26, 2020
Not a hand sanitiser in sight ireland is preparing 😮😮😮😮 pic.twitter.com/lls9LYMwZI— EMMA GRIFFIN (@Emzgriffin) February 26, 2020
When the Political Editor of the Sun Newspaper @tnewtondunn reveals on @SkyNews that he has bought £99 worth of face masks & hand sanitiser you know this virus is serious. He has access to top UK Government officials #CoronavirusOutbreak— Lou Paterson 🇬🇧 (@PatersonLou) February 26, 2020
COVID-19 has now been confirmed in at least 45 countries, with many implementing emergency plans and travel restrictions on the worst-affected places. Australia activated its emergency response plan yesterday amid rising concerns of a potential coronavirus pandemic.
Stock markets around the world have been savaged, with more than $US1.7 trillion ($A2.5 trillion) wiped off US exchanges in two days alone.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that the number of new cases reported outside China exceeded the number of new cases in China for the first time.
On Tuesday, 411 new cases of the COVID-19 disease were reported in China, while 427 were reported outside the country, WHO said.
"The sudden increases of cases in Italy, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Korea are deeply concerning," WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday.
Countries across the world are now scrambling to prevent the spread of the virus, which was first detected at a seafood market in Wuhan, China, in December.
More than 81,000 people have been infected while at least 2770 have died.
News.com.au has contacted Big W, Chemist Warehouse and Priceline for comment.