Thursday, April 18, 2024

Face masks selling out as coronavirus cases trigger new demand

The Health Ministry’s announcement on Friday that the first cases of coronavirus had been confirmed in Mexico sent people racing to their nearest pharmacies in search of the preventative fashion item du jour – face masks.

But many were disappointed, finding that stock at both small family-run pharmacies and large chains was already depleted just hours after Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell told the president’s morning press conference that two cases of Covid-19, as the coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, late last year is known, had been detected, one in Mexico City and the other in Sinaloa.

Panic buying of face masks took hold in many parts of the country, according to a report by the newspaper El Universal, but was most prevalent in Mexico City, México state and Sinaloa.

Almost all pharmacies in the capital’s historic center, a mecca for those seeking medicines and medical supplies, ran out of both face masks and anti-bacterial gel not long after news of the virus’s arrival in Mexico broke – and quickly went viral. One downtown pharmacy even put up a sign announcing that it had no masks left, El Universal said.

As umbrella vendors appear as if by magic when the heavens open, face mask hawkers popped up on busy Mexico City streets on Friday, determined to cash in on the growing anxiety about the possible spread of Covid-19. Some pharmacies in México state reportedly increased the price of the in-demand items by as much as 200%.

'No face masks,' reads the sign in a Mexico City pharmacy.
‘No face masks,’ reads the sign in a Mexico City pharmacy.

By Friday afternoon, the number of people wearing face masks of varying colors on the streets and in public places in the capital had notably increased, El Universal said.

“Now it’s … coronavirus but people die from influenza every year in this season,” said a woman identified only as Karla who was wearing a pink mask in the zócalo metro station. “It scares me more than the virus from China.”

Outside the National Institute of Respiratory Diseases, located in the southern Mexico City borough of Tlalpan, it was difficult to spot anyone at all not wearing a face mask.

The attendant at a small medical supplies store in front of the hospital’s emergency department told El Universal that he usually sold 15-20 masks a day but demand spiked to 50 a day this week, exhausting supply completely. The owner of a nearby pharmacy, Karina López, said that she sold out even before the announcement that coronavirus had made its way to Mexico.

She suggested that people would have better luck in hardware stores, explaining that they sell masks and respirators for painters.

While wearing a mask is one way to protect oneself from infection with Covid-19 and other contagious diseases, health experts also recommend washing hands thoroughly and regularly, avoiding touching the mouth, nose and eyes, covering the mouth with the inside of the elbow when sneezing and coughing and avoiding contact with people with flu-like symptoms.

Deputy Health Minister López-Gatell also called on people to refrain from greeting each other with hugs and kisses, as is commonplace across Mexico and Latin America more broadly. However, it appears that his message didn’t get through to the man standing right behind him when he delivered the message: the president.

López Obrador gave out hugs and kisses aplenty to supporters at an event in an indigenous Chontal community in his native Tabasco on Friday afternoon, affection that was reciprocated by those in attendance.

“As if we’re not going to want to hug him … he came from here, from this land. We want to hug him, kiss him and tell him that we’re with him until the end. Don’t forget that us Chontales were with him from the beginning,” Alicia Sánchez said.

Source: El Universal (sp) 

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