Pharmacies run out of face masks, gloves – again

MUSCAT: Pharmacies in Muscat reported a shortage of face masks, gloves, and sanitizers in the face of an upsurge in demand for these personal protection items in recent weeks.

Notices posted at the entrances of an array of pharmacies across the capital region served to warn approaching customers of the futility of even inquiring about the availability of these hugely sought-after items.

Unless previous scarcity spells, which have been relatively brief, this time around, most pharmacy staff quizzed by the Observer said they could predict a date by which new stocks were anticipated.  “We haven’t received any firm word from our suppliers because they are facing similar demand from other countries in the region,” one executive said.

In recent days, face masks have become a ubiquitous sight as growing numbers of people of all ages and backgrounds – citizens and expatriates alike – have begun donning this protective gear amid growing public awareness about the threat posed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Although face masks are not specifically recommended for people who are not subject to self-isolation or quarantine procedures, as well as others who do not exhibit any flu-like symptoms, notably coughing and sneezing, ordinary folks have taken to these face pieces as a safety precaution.   This explains the shortage of face masks in local pharmacies.

According to an executive representing a leading pharmaceutical chain, much of the recent demand for face masks, as well as gloves, has come from businesses and companies operating in catering, cleaning, hygiene and contracting services. As employers of large numbers of workers, the requirement of these companies is generally high, he noted.

Sanitizers also ran out on Monday, with many pharmacies offering only pocket or spray versions of the more popular 500ml versions. Fresh stocks are anticipated soon.