Australia markets closed

Mask prices are spiking after Coronavirus outbreak

As coronavirus spreads, the face mask industry booms. Source: Getty

The deadly coronavirus has claimed 81 lives so far, with the total number of confirmed cases in China rising to 2744 - and as the number of cases increases, so too does the number of face masks purchased.

According to the South China Morning Post, the cost of face masks has spiked across Hong Kong in the last week as retailers battle rising wholesale prices. 

N95 face masks were priced at HK$60 (AU$11) in one store, which was a 30 per cent increase on the shop’s normal rate. The same mask cost as much as HK$120 elsewhere, the publication found.

The BBC found across January 20 and January 21, more than 80 million masks were sold on Taobao, a Chinese ecommerce site run by Alibaba.

Taobao was forced to warn sellers they were “not allowed to increase prices” on the masks, as reports emerged of people purchasing masks to resell them at higher prices. 

Similarly, disposable mask sellers on Amazon, PacingMed and BLBM, have had to warn customers against buying fake products.

“Dear customer, all of our face masks are sold out. Please do not buy orders from other sellers to avoid getting counterfeit products,” PacingMed’s product page reads.

“We are trying to replenish the stock by next month. Our brand is PacingMed. Sorry for the convenience.”

Manufacturing company stocks soar

Alpha Pro Tech (APT), a Canadian company that manufactures face masks and sells them in China, saw the price of its stock increase from US$3.51 to $6.00 between December 27 and January 24 - when the outbreak began.

Yesterday, APT stock spiked 28 per cent, while Lakeland industries, which makes clean-room suits and protective clothing, saw stocks jump 17 per cent.

Similarly, 3M, the most popular face mask brand in China, added US$1.4 billion in market value between December 30 and January 24. 

Face masks sell out during Australian bushfires

Sydney-siders who rushed to purchase face masks when the December bushfires caused air quality to plummet were met with disappointment as major chains sold out. 

At least two stores from Chemist Warehouse and OfficeWorks in the Sydney CBD had sold out at the time, and Yahoo Finance found Bunnings in Sydney’s inner-west was struggling to keep up with demand.

The same N95-P2 face masks that were effective for the bushfires are also effective in protecting against coronavirus, reports show.

Make your money work with Yahoo Finance’s daily newsletter. Sign up here and stay on top of the latest money, news and tech news.