Great Britain

Coronavirus fears hit fever pitch as pharmacies run out of masks as Brits take desperate measures against killer bug

PANICKED Chinese students have been rushing to buy surgical masks as coronavirus fears grip the University of Edinburgh.

A university pharmacy has run out of masks after selling more than a year's worth of stock in just one day.

Boots stores in the city have also "completely run out" and a sign in one store read "unfortunately we do not have any surgical or face masks in store".

Some people are said to have taken to using bizarre techniques such as drinking rice vinegar to fight the risk of contracting the killer virus.

And stories are emerging of some students locking themselves inside.

Haobo, 19, a first-year artificial intelligence university student from near Beijing, said: "One of my friends locked himself in his room for a week because he thought he might have been infected.

"But he is already good enough to go back to school. He has gone to the GP but it is just normal flu."

One 25-year-old post graduate student told Sun Online: "I am waiting to get a mask from our school. You can buy them.

"All the research says if you put on tour mask it will probably reduce the risk. I am quite concerned."

He added: "If I was in China I would probably worry about this situation because the number of patients they publish is not true.

"I believe the number of patients is much larger. I think the government is probably lying."

A pharmacist at the Bristo Square pharmacy said they had sold hundreds of face masks to Chinese students - with fresh stock having to be shipped from Ireland.

She said: "All our suppliers are out of stock. One yesterday said they had a years worth of supply now they had none.

"They are shipping face masks from Ireland for us. Yesterday we sold well over 1,000. They bought them in boxes.

"The real boom was yesterday. Definitely more than a year's worth in just one day.

"We have no face masks in here. We don't get any more til Monday."

It comes as the UK government is slammed for its reaction to the deadly outbreak.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock was ordered today to “pull his finger out” as 14 Brits were hospitalised over the killer virus.

Sales of hand gel and thermometers have also rocketed.

Another worker at the pharmacist said a Chinese girl who came in with symptoms was put in quarantine by doctors upstairs.

She said: "We had one Chinese girl that was getting tested. She went to the doctor upstairs and they had her isolated.

"She said she wasn't feeling well."

An email from the University of Edinburgh, seen by Sun Online, tells students feeling unwell after recently travelling to Wuhan province or elsewhere in China to contact their GP.

Shops near the university sold out of surgery masks in hours as a surge of anxious Chinese students emptied shelves.

Germaine Weir, 53, a sales assistant from safety equipment supplier Hewat's, said: "We sold 1,000 yesterday in about two hours.

"They were coming in and buying seven boxes. They were Chinese students, predominantly.

"A couple of the customers I took yesterday were going to China, so that's why they were getting them.

"Everyone that was coming in was after masks. We sold out yesterday."

Some students snapped up masks used by industrial workers to protect themselves from toxic fumes and dust.

A few doors down Lynne McCloskey, an assistant at alternative medicine D Atkinson Herbalist & Napiers Clinic, said demand was so high the shop was selling it's own masks they usually use when mixing herbal remedies.

She said: "These are our masks. In our basement we have all the dried herbs so we wear masks down there.

"We had four boxes sitting. I got the idea this morning as people were coming in, 'why dont we sell the ones we've got'.

"We sold 70. We usually sell none. They have just been coming in and picking them all up and taking handfuls away with them.

"They've been going round everybody, but everybody is sold out. I've seen nothing like that before."