Coronavirus fears lead to worldwide mask shortages
New York (CNN) As fears grew about the spread of coronavirus pharmacies and online retailers began running out of face masks used to prevent its transmission.
The World Health Organization warned of a global "chronic shortage" of equipment that could shield individuals from coronavirus.
"We're sending testing kits, mask, gloves, respirators and gowns to countries in every region. However the world is facing a chronic shortage of personal protective equipment," World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a briefing in Geneva.
For weeks, it's been impossible to buy any masks on China's e-commerce giants. Even N95 respirators, which are said to be more effective than surgical masks in stopping transmission of the virus, are also out of stock on all major online platforms in China.
In Hong Kong, people have been waiting as long as three hours outside of pharmacies to buy surgical masks. Demand was so high that some pharmacies had to limit the number of masks customers were allowed to buy.
Across China, the spread of the virus has prompted quarantines, airline cancellations, stores closures and the temporary shut down of factories and other businesses.
Masks are now hard to come by in the United States, as well.
The National Community Pharmacists Association on Thursday released results of a national survey that said 96% of local pharmacies are experiencing a shortage of surgical masks, and nearly 40% don't have enough N95 respirators.
"All the masks that we restocked in the morning were gone by the afternoon," a salesperson at a Walgreens pharmacy located near the Hudson Yards of New York City told CNN Business.