Amazon has stopped selling some face masks, antibacterial wipes and other hard-to-find health care products to the general public, saying it will only sell these items to governments and health providers during the coronavirus pandemic.
Supplies of these items, especially sanitizers, gloves and masks, have been limited for weeks as health providers and millions of shoppers have stocked up on these products. Now, doctors and nurses have been sounding the alarm that they are running out of basic protective equipment as they serve 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 page describing the change to merchants selling on Amazon, it 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.”
On a search of Amazon’s main website, this list included some listings of Clorox disinfecting wipes, but not listings of small bottles of hand sanitizer or disposable face masks.
Amazon has been making sweeping changes to its sprawling logistics network, as it’s focused more on bringing into its warehouses and selling basic needs like baby formula and hand sanitizers during the health emergency. These changes have helped the company respond to a surge 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, like toilet paper and paper towels, have gone out of stock.
Earlier Thursday, Amazon said it started a handful of new health and safety measures to protect its warehouse workers during the crisis to make sure they don’t get sick and can continue shipping out orders to millions of customers. The company is now providing face masks to employees and instituting temperature checks. It said any N-95 masks it gets will be 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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