Foreigners, mostly Americans, Koreans, and Chinese, are buying protective masks in boxes, causing drugstores around the city to run out of supplies for the locals.
Mercury Drug, Drugman, and Biochemist, three of the drugstores operating several branches in Puerto Princesa City, began running out of any type of face masks to sell since January 23 when reports about suspected Wuhan coronavirus cases started circulating in Coron and El Nido.
Mercury Drug San Juan Branch pharmacy assistant Mecah May Calumay said they already posted Sunday a public notice that face masks are no longer available in their store since the buying hysteria started late last week.
“Kanina lang din nagdagsaan lalo na ‘yong mga turista, ‘yong mga Americans, Chinese, Koreans, hindi ko lang sure kung Taiwanese ‘yong iba. Ang naubos ay antiviral masks at disposable masks. Antiviral masks ‘yong makapal. Meron din kaming surgical masks, pero wala ngayon, naubos na rin,” she said in an interview with Palawan News.
“Feeling ko mas dumami ang bumili ngayon simula noong [nagkaroon ng balita] about coronavirus. Boxes kasi ang binibili,” Calumay added.
Calumay said she is not sure when they will be able to replenish their supplies, however, she assured that they have already ordered for more, especially the N95 masks.
“‘Yong madalas kasing hinahanap ‘yong N95 ng mga customers namin,” Calumay said.
In its branch in Rizal Avenue, no public announcement has been posted yet, but assistant branch manager Gelyn Camuin said they also started running out of supplies on January 23.
She said their face mask buyers were also mostly foreigners, especially Chinese and Koreans in groups of five and 10.
“Noong nakaraan pa kami naubusan, Thursday ata, dahil sa coronavirus. Sila (Chinese and Koreans) ang mga bumibili sa amin. Naubos nga nila ‘yong parang anim na boxes namin na naiwan,” Camuin said also Sunday.
At Drugman near the Capitol, pharmacy assistant Jenalyn Mangalao said all their branches have run out of face mask supplies because foreigners bought them in several pieces if not boxes.
Chinese and Korean tourists were also among their customers. Their supply of 12 boxes of disposal masks were all bought Saturday, she said.
“Kahapon lang po naubos ‘yong 12 boxes. Saglit lang siya, hindi siya umabot ng one hour. Maraming mga customers, maraming naghahanap — karamihan foreigners at saka para sa mga bata,” Mangalao said.
Each box containing 50 pieces of disposable mask costs around P500 (P5 each), the surgical mask costs P20 each, while the N95 is around P75 to P95 each.
The drugstores have not increased their prices despite the demand for all types of face masks.
City resident Francis Gonzales, who was trying to buy protective masks for his family at Drugman, was disappointed when he was told there is no more for him to buy.
Valdez said he had been to several drugstores, but he was unable to purchase any.
“Naikot ko na halos lahat pero wala akong mabili. Ngayon lang ako naghanap, pero ‘yong kaibigan ko nakakuha pa kahapon. Tapos ngayong bigla-biglang wala na kaagad. Sa Biochemist galing ako, pero wala na. Galing din ako sa San Pedro, sa Robinsons, pero wala na rin,” Gonzales said.
Calumay said they have noticed too, an increase in the purchase of vitamins that are best for boosting the immune system and bottles of hand sanitizer to minimize the presence of pathogens or infectious agents on the hand.
“‘Yong mga vitamins namin na pang-immune system, maraming bumibili din. Nauubusan na din kami ng supply ng hand sanitizer kasi ang daming bumibili gaya ng alcogel,” she said.