An Auckland pharmacy selling face masks for $30 each - almost 10 times their normal price - is being accused of making profit off fear amid coronavirus hysteria.

There is a shortage of respirators, face masks and hand sanitiser nationwide, with big brands sold-out online and in many stores.

Pharmacies have reported that people are buying boxes of N95 masks to ship back to Asia, where there is an "acute shortage" as it is mandatory to wear them in Wuhan, the centre of the deadly virus and home to 11 million people.

The Royal Oak 7 Day Urgent Pharmacy has this week been selling the N95 masks for $30 each and boxes of 50 for $1500, while a pharmacy across the road sold them for $3.50.

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Both are now out of stock.

The N95 masks are respirators which claim to filter 95 per cent of airborne particles and are being recommended by the CDC for health professionals working with people infected with coronavirus.

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Staff at the 7 Day Urgent Pharmacy told the Weekend Herald they've had to sell the masks for $30 because their supplier upped their prices.

The pharmacy was also selling surgical masks for $6 each and a FFP1 dust masks for $15. Wholesale the surgical masks cost $2.10 each, while dust masks are about $2.50.

An Auckland pharmacy has been accused of profiteering of fear for selling $30 face masks.
An Auckland pharmacy has been accused of profiteering of fear for selling $30 face masks.

The owner of the pharmacy did not respond to the Weekend Herald's request for comment.

A medical wholesaler said he wasn't aware of any suppliers who had increased their prices, despite the short supply.

An online retailer is sold out of respirators.
An online retailer is sold out of respirators.
The Warehouse is out of stock of face masks on its website.
The Warehouse is out of stock of face masks on its website.

Meanwhile, Green Cross Health - the parent owner of Unichem and Life pharmacies - said "current high demand" had meant may of its 360-plus stores had "varying levels of stock availability of face masks".

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"All of our product is sourced from suppliers. We appreciate that the unexpected increase in demand has driven their stock levels down, and in some cases out of stock.

"We have been keeping in regular contact with all of our suppliers to try to secure further stock as it becomes available. Our suppliers have been focussing on supporting the needs of the public during this global issue."

Meanwhile, searches for face masks and hand sanitiser have skyrocketed on Trade Me, with nearly 11,000 searches for "face mask" in the past week, which is up 370 per cent on the year prior, while searches for hand sanitiser are also up nearly 200 per cent.

The CDC is recommending that health workers who interact with coronavirus patients to wear N95, which are designed to filter out 95 per cent of airborne particles and fit tightly to the face.

However, surgical masks do not prevent airborne particles from entering the lungs and are loose-fitting, so are ineffective against coronavirus.