As Melbourne's deadline for mandatory face masks looms, demand has soared. One retailer has stock, but it comes with a big price tag.
Priceline is selling face masks for $249 following the announcement the item would become mandatory in Victoria's virus hotspots.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews warned retailers against price gouging ahead of the state's mandatory mask deadline which comes into play on Thursday in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire.
Demand for masks has seen lengthy queues form to snag the essential item and new buying limits imposed on shoppers.
Priceline's website still has multiple masks in stock, with prices starting at $51.99 and peaking at $249.
Shoppers have taken to social media to label the price of the masks "disappointing" but there is no suggestion Priceline has marked up prices in response to the Victoria's new mandate.
"The retail price represents the quality, cost price and number of units in each pack," a spokesperson told 9 News.
"Additionally, many stores have sourced their own products for their communities, in a time where securing inventory has been difficult.
"We would encourage any customer seeking to understand which face mask is appropriate for them to have a conversation with their pharmacist who will happily explain the differences between masks and the reasons for cost variations."
News.com.au has contacted Priceline for further comment.
A pack of 50 KN95 Disposable Face Masks, which can be used to filter out "fine particles and help reduce the risk of transmitting airborne infectious diseases" retails for $249 at the retailer. Each mask has a "95 per cent particle filtration efficiency" and a "multi-layer filter structure".
The chemist also listed a 35 pack of Alpha Pro Tech Face Mask N95 on its website for $209 and a ten pack of the KN95 for just under $52.
On Twitter, one shopper snapped a picture back in April showing five single-use masks were on sale for $9 each.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews yesterday confirmed some retailers were massively inflating the price of face masks before mandatory new rules come into effect on Thursday. Non-compliance can result in a fine of $200.
Andrews accused some retailers of "profiting from the pain of others" by increasing prices since the new coronavirus rules were announced on Sunday.
"I would encourage everybody to do the right thing and acknowledge that this is no time to be profiting from the pain of others," Andrews said.
"There is no time to be doing that, regardless of a global pandemic or not. To that end, we have got more than two million multi-use masks, like the ones that I was wearing when I came in and so many people in the room today are wearing.
"The first of those orders arrives this week. We will use some in our stockpile, we have already ordered replacements for those so that will be replenished because that is there for the very worst of outcomes."
Residents don't need to buy expensive medical grade masks to comply, with Andrews saying on Sunday "it can be a scarf, it can be a homemade mask".
Experts are now calling for Sydney to follow suit with the measure, particularly on public transport.
Professor Mary-Louise McLaws, an epidemiologist and World Health Organisation (WHO) adviser, said Sydney should follow Melbourne's advice and introduce compulsory masks "within days" to stem the Covid-19 outbreak in NSW.
"I know this will be criticised because it's across a wide geographical area, but that's the point," she told the ABC.
"It doesn't have to last forever … even if we just do it for a week and then after the week, it's re-evaluated," she added.
Retailers across Melbourne have been forced to impose buying limits on masks as the face covering becomes the new toilet paper.
Aldi is now only allowing customers to purchase two packs at a time, with a spokeswoman telling the Herald Sun it was to allow a "fair distribution of product".
Woolworths has also limited shoppers to just one packet while Bunnings will only allow a customer to buy a maximum of 50 masks.