Italy probes ‘insane’ prices for coronavirus masks, sanitizers

A couple wearing protective masks look at a phone next to the Colosseum in Rome, Italy, February 25, 2020. REUTERS/Remo Casilli

MILAN (Reuters) – Italian authorities have opened a probe into skyrocketing online prices for hygienic masks and sanitizing gels following the coronavirus outbreak in northern Italy, two senior magistrates said on Tuesday.

“We have decided to open an investigation after media reports of the insane prices fetched up by these products on online sales websites in the last two days,” Milan deputy chief prosecutor Tiziana Siciliano told Reuters.

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.

Many pharmacists say they have run out of hygienic masks and hand sanitizers and many people have turned to online sites where prices have shot up.

“The price of masks online has risen from one cent to 10 euros each and a one liter bottle of disinfectant that last week was on sale for 7 euros, was up to 39 euros yesterday,” Siciliano 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.

Reporting by Emilio Parodi; editing by James Mackenzie and Nick Macfie

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