Two senior magistrates on Tuesday said Italian authorities had begun an investigation into rocketing online prices for hygienic masks and sanitising gels following the Coronavirus outbreak in northern Italy.
Italy has seen the biggest outbreak of the disease in Europe, with more than 260 cases and seven deaths reported, most in the prosperous north of the country.
Milan deputy Chief Prosecutor, Tiziana Siciliano, said, “We have decided to open an investigation after media reports of the insane prices fetched up by these products (masks and gels) on online sales websites in the last two days.
“As the disease has spread, many pharmacists say they have run out of hygienic masks and hand sanitisers, and many people have resorted to online sites where prices have shot up.
“The price of masks online has risen from one cent to 10 euros each and a litre bottle of disinfectant that last week was on sale for 7 euros, was up to 39 euros yesterday.’’
Research Institute Nielsen said sales of hand sanitiser gels in Italy rose to 900,000 packs in the first six weeks of 2020, a nine-fold rise over the previous year and are expected to reach 1 million by the end of February.
“Sales of hygienic hand gels have gone through the roof.
“The shelves of big retailers (hypermarkets, supermarkets, cash and carry, specialist pharmacists and discounters) have been cleared out,’’ the institute said.
As the emergency has spread, police have also issued warnings that criminals posing as health inspectors have been using false identity papers to try to gain access to people’s houses to steal money or other valuables.(Reuters/NAN)