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Hand sanitiser sales soar 255% as UK coronavirus fears grow

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·Finance and policy reporter
·2 min read
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CARDIFF, WALES - FEBRUARY 28: Empty shelves in a Boots chemist after the retailer ran out of hand sanitiser following a limiting sales to two per customer on February 28, 2020, in Cardiff, Wales. Three more cases of the coronavirus (Covid-19) were confirmed in the UK today, including the first one in Wales. The virus has spread to 49 countries in a matter of weeks, claiming nearly 2,900 lives and infecting over 80,000. The World Health Organisation have increased their risk assessment to “very high”. (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)
Empty shelves in a Boots chemist after the retailer ran out of hand sanitiser. (Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)

Supermarket sales of hand sanitiser have soared 255% year-on-year as coronavirus fears deepen in the UK, according to new figures.

Data from market research firm Kantar suggests consumers have been stocking up on the product as the covid-19 virus has spread around the globe and dominated headlines in recent weeks. It means consumers bought two-and-a-half times as many bottles of hand sanitiser last month as in February 2019.

Sales of other kinds of liquid soap are also up by 7% compared to a year ago, while household cleaning product sales rose by 10%.

“Given the media focus around the outbreak of COVID-19 in February, it’s unsurprising to see shoppers prudently protecting themselves from illness,” said Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar.

The figures also show overall supermarket sales rising at the fastest rate since last November, up 0.7% over the past 12 weeks. But Sainsbury’s was the only one of the ‘Big Four’ largest supermarkets to increase sales year-on-year, with discounters Aldi and Lidl and online retailer Ocado growing fastest.

Read more: Stocks jump ahead of emergency G7 coronavirus call

Some Boots stores have resorted to rationing hand sanitiser because of high demand as the number of UK cases has risen to at least 40.

A sign in some of its pharmacies reads: “Hand sanitisers are currently limited to two per customer. Help us to support as many people as possible to keep their hands clean this winter."

Demand for face masks in the UK has also risen risen in recent weeks, despite doubts over their effectiveness in protecting individuals from the virus.

The National Pharmacy Association has noted a “considerable increase” in demand at some pharmacies, including Chinese tourists buying masks for their return to China.

Health secretary Matt Hancock sought to reassure the public this week that the number of UK cases remained relatively small, and the symptoms “relatively mild” for most people who catch the virus.