The coronavirus scare has boosted the sales of hand disinfectants and protective masks in Finland, to the point where empty shelves have become commonplace across the country, according to pharmacies and retailers.
According to Anu Hammarén, product manager at the retail cooperative S-Group, sales of disinfectant products have tripled over the past week. The demand for liquid hand sanitiser has risen sharply over the week, pharmacy chain Yliopiston Apteekki and retailer K-Group reported to national broadcaster Yle.
Finland's National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) advised the Finnish public to protect themselves from germs and viruses in general, including the deadly coronavirus, by maintaining good hand hygiene as well as shielding themselves from coughs and sneezes. THL particularly recommended that people wash their hands regularly with soap and water and use alcohol-based hand sanitisers as needed.
The demand for respiratory protection at Finnish pharmacies has also been high, especially in Lapland, the country's most popular tourist destination. Suppliers are now running out of face masks throughout Finland.
According to Erkki Kostiainen, the head of communications at the Finnish Pharmacists' Association, respiratory protection is most sought-after by Asians.
Risto Ropponen, a pharmacist from the town of Ivalo, confirmed that the masks have been sold out, and that they are also out of supplies. “We are trying to survey importers and have managed to buy some from different places”, Ropponen told the newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet. According to him, the drought is beginning to be felt throughout the entire country.
However, there is no imminent danger of a national shortage of sanitiser or respiratory protection, since companies assure that there is plenty available.
“As a result of the sales, there may be some shortfalls on store shelves. More products will be brought to stores as we get more in stock”, Hammarén said.
Last Friday, a tourist in Lapland tested positive for coronavirus, which so far remains the only known case of the illness in Finland. Most of the people thought to have been potentially exposed to the virus, 21 in total, have been tracked down and approached by health authorities.
As a precaution, Finnair has cancelled all flights to mainland China due to the coronavirus for February and March. Meanwhile, Finns abroad are getting government help in leaving Wuhan, the epicentre of the epidemic.
The recently discovered strain of coronavirus originated in the Chinese province of Hubei last December and has since spread to 24 countries. The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in China has reached 490, with a total of 24,324 people infected and 892 recovered, the authorities said. This yields a mortality rate of 2 percent.