Amazon has stopped selling N95 respirators, paper surgical masks, face shields, surgical gowns and gloves, and large-volume containers of sanitizer to general consumers, according to Recode. The company will instead prioritize the sale of these products to hospitals and governments, which can sign up to make purchases through a new portal on Amazon’s business site.
Amazon says it will waive the commission fee it typically takes from sellers “to encourage our selling partners to make additional inventory of these products available at competitive prices to these customers with the greatest need.”
Many other products like small-volume sanitizers and wipes will still be available for the general public to buy, Amazon told CNBC.
The mask ban comes at a time when the US surgeon general has asked the Centers for Disease Control to reconsider its guidance that the general public doesn’t need to wear masks, in part to help ensure more of them make it to health care providers. Meanwhile, individuals, governments, and companies big and small have been helping make more masks, donating them from stockpiles, or buying them from overseas.
Amazon has made a number of changes to core parts of its logistics chain as the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to spread. In mid-March, the company announced it was prioritizing stocking medical supplies and household staples that are in high demand. Amazon also stopped shipping nonessential products in Italy and France. Even deliveries of goods bought as part of its Prime membership plan are seeing delays.
At the same time, positive cases of COVID-19 keep popping up in the company’s warehouses. Some of those workforces have already held or planned walkouts over their treatment during the pandemic. It wasn’t until today that Amazon pledged to offer basic protections like checking workers’ temperatures and handing out surgical masks.