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Hand sanitiser sales soar 255% as UK coronavirus fears grow

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
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.

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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.