Pharmacists are struggling to keep up with high demands for surgical face masks as concerns over coronavirus escalates.

There is a limited amount of surgical face masks to be found around Watford and surrounding areas as people look for protective measures against the virus.

Several pharmacists in Watford have sold out of face masks and are struggling to restock the items, while some have seen the demands of antibacterial hand sanitisers skyrocket.

One pharmacist in Dave Pharmacy, Rickmansworth, admitted they only have one small pack of surgical face masks left, as the demand has been “massive”.

She said: “From the first day when it came on the news, people came in and asked for surgical masks and I didn’t really think anything of it.

“Then it just ballooned up from there, until today we’ve had no stock in face masks.

“The demand for hand sanitisers has also gone mad, one man came in the other day and asked for ten!”

She believes that the problem stems from people who are “obviously very scared” and advises that other than basic hygiene, most people shouldn’t worry unless they’ve had any direct contact with any of the affected areas in China.

Hintons Pharmacy in High Street, Watford has faced similar struggles with selling surgical face masks.

The owner of the pharmacy said: “We’ve not had many face masks left because our suppliers are out of stock.

“There are one or two boxes left, but they are being sold out straight away.

“Even with the hand sanitisers, we are being sold out.

“There’s been a massive increase of people just coming in and asking about the virus.”

Normally, he directs people to general advice provided from Department of Health, including careful attention to hand hygiene and covering their nose and mouths during sneezing.

At Bridgewater Pharmacy in Printers Avenue, the manager revealed the pharmacy is unable to sell face masks due to the lack of stock from suppliers.

This has also been the case with other pharmacists including Meriden Pharmacy and Bushey Pharmacy.

The manager added he doesn’t believe too many people are actually concerned of the virus, but there has been a “noticeable, but not large” increase in sales for protective items.

Nationally, there has been a debate about whether surgical face masks are an effective form of protection against the virus, with a pharmacist at Abell Chemist in Bushey believing it can help against droplets of bacteria, but is not fully protective.

Speculation from recent social media reports of staff dressed in protective clothing at Watford General Hospital also led to concerns of the virus.

As of February 12, a total of 1,758 people have been tested in the UK. Nine had been tested positive.

Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty previously said: “Four further patients in England have tested positive for novel coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases in the UK to eight.

“The new cases are all known contacts of a previously confirmed UK case, and the virus was passed on in France.

“Experts at Public Health England continue to work hard tracing patient contacts from the UK cases. They successfully identified these individuals and ensured the appropriate support was provided.

“The patients have been transferred to specialist NHS centres at Guy’s and St Thomas’ and The Royal Free hospitals, and we are now using robust infection control measures to prevent further spread of the virus. The NHS is extremely well prepared to manage these cases and treat them, and we are working quickly to identify any further contacts these patients have had.”