Chemists and shops across Donegal have seen a huge increase in demand for protective hygiene products due to the spread of coronavirus.
Hand gels, face masks and antibacterial sprays are among the most sought after items, with many local pharmacies selling out in recent weeks.
Other stores have had to ration the number of products that shoppers can buy.
The rush surged as the first five cases were diagnosed on the island of Ireland in the past seven days. There are over 94,000 confirmed cases worldwide.
Tesco Letterkenny is completely sold out of hand gels. A notice on the empty shelf tells customers that the next delivery will not be in until 13th March 2020.
Boots is asking people not to stockpile hand sanitisers by enforcing a limit of two per customer.
A notice in the Letterkenny Retail Park branch asks customers to adhere to the daily limit “to support as many people as possible to keep their hands clean this winter.”
With hand gels and sanitisers being prioritised for hospitals, GP surgeries and public institutions, stores have been unable to restock to meet the demand.
Meanwhile, McFadden’s in Letterkenny has received a large delivery of face masks in various sizes and grades. The order, they said, was in response to customers seeking more protective wear to lower the risk of coronavirus spreading.
The HSE’s advice is that face masks are unlikely to be of any benefit if a person is not sick and wants to protect themselves against COVID-19. Sick people, however, will be advised by their doctor when to use a mask and healthcare workers need masks and other personal protective equipment to protect them from infection during their work.
The risk of catching coronavirus in Ireland remains at the ‘low to moderate’ level, but this may change.
Shane Harvey, Pharmacist at McFadden’s at Lower Main Street Letterkenny, said the key preventative measure is to wash your hands.
“We recommend good hand hygiene. If you are sneezing, sneeze into your shoulder. If you use a tissue, dispose of it straight away. Avoid shaking hands and avoid large crowds.”
While the flu vaccine does not protect against coronavirus, Mr Harvey recommends that people who are in at-risk groups should get their vaccine as the season continues until 22nd April.
“It is the people who would be prone to flu, such as older people and people who are sick, who need to be more careful,” he said.
“The flu vaccine is still available. Get it. It will protect against flu, and it can’t do any harm.”
Mr Harvey advises the public to visit the HSE website for factual advice and regular updates on coronavirus.
The HSE advises that anyone who shows symptoms of coronavirus who has been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days should:
- isolate themselves from other people – this means going into a different, well-ventilated room alone, with a phone
- phone their GP, or emergency department – if this is not possible, phone 112 or 999
- in a medical emergency (if you have severe symptoms) phone 112 or 999