Amazon restricts sale of some face masks and disinfecting wipes to the public

Amazon restricts sale of some face masks and disinfecting wipes to the public


At a medical facility in the Bay Area last month.

James Martin/CNET

For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

Amazon has stopped selling some face masks, antibacterial wipes and other hard-to-find health care products to the general public, saying it’ll sell these items only to governments and health providers during the coronavirus pandemic.

A search of Amazon’s main website showed that the list of restricted items included some listings of Clorox disinfecting wipes but not small bottles of hand sanitizer or disposable face masks.

Supplies of many of these items, especially sanitizers, gloves and masks, have been limited for weeks as health providers and millions of shoppers have stocked up. Now doctors and nurses are sounding the alarm that they’re running out of basic protective equipment as they care for a surge of new coronavirus patients.

Amazon this week added a note to many of these listings, which include thermometers, face shields and surgical gowns, saying: “Available only for hospitals and government agencies directly responding to COVID-19.” On a webpage explaining the change, the company said it won’t be making a profit on this service. 

On a separate page describing the change to merchants selling on Amazon, the e-tailing giant said this list of restricted items includes “high-demand medical products like N95 masks, surgical masks, facial shields, surgical gowns, surgical gloves, and large-volume sanitizers.”

Amazon has been making sweeping changes to its sprawling logistics network during the health emergency. It’s restricting shipments into its warehouses to focus on basic needs like baby formula and hand sanitizers, while also prioritizing delivery of those items to customers. These changes have helped the company respond to a spike in customer orders, as millions of shoppers are told to stay home during the pandemic, though deliveries have been slower than usual and high-demand items, such as toilet paper and paper towels, have at times gone out of stock.

Earlier Thursday, Amazon said it had put a handful of new health and safety measures in place to protect its warehouse workers during the crisis and make sure they don’t get sick and can continue shipping orders to customers. The company is now providing face masks to Amazon warehouse employees and instituting temperature checks. It said any N95 masks it gets will either be donated to health care workers or sold at cost to health care or government customers through Amazon Business.

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