Amazon blocks sale of N95 masks to public, begins supplying hospitals

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Amazon is no longer offering N95 masks to the general public, as it prioritizes the delivery of essential supplies to hospitals, government agencies and other groups amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Earlier this week, the company rolled out a new section of its website dedicated to COVID-19 related supplies. There, any U.S.-accredited hospital or state or federal agency can fill out a form to access necessary items like N95 masks, surgical masks, facial shields, surgical gowns, surgical gloves and large-volume sanitizers. News of the website was first reported by Vox. 

The site states it is not accepting requests from the general public, noting: “We are not accepting requests from individuals or non-qualified organizations at this time.” Amazon also noted it will not make a profit from the orders.

An Amazon spokesperson told CNBC that it’s no longer permitting the sale of certain coronavirus-related items in its store to ensure that scarce inventory of medical supplies are available to hospitals and government organizations during the pandemic.

In addition to N95 masks and similar masks, Amazon is also restricting the general public’s access to COVID-19 diagnostic kits, the spokesperson said. The company will monitor additional product categories to determine if they should be prioritized for sale to hospitals and government organizations. 

Other items, such as small-volume sanitizers and wipes intended for personal use, remain available to the general public, the spokesperson added. 

Amazon is sourcing some of the products for this effort from third-party sellers. To encourage sellers to apply, Amazon has also waived standard referral fees for third-party sellers who take part in the effort through June 30. Sellers pay a referral fee on each item sold, with the fee differing in amount based on the product category. 

The company posted a message to its Seller Central message board calling for sellers to supply products. The application process will help Amazon vet any seller requests that are submitted and, by extension, the supplies being sent to hospitals and government agencies.

Amazon had faced challenges policing coronavirus-related products offered on its third-party marketplace. Last month, the company blocked all new offers for face masks, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes in an effort to crack down on price gouging. Additionally, Amazon said it removed more than 1 million products that made suspect or misleading claims about the coronavirus. 

— CNBC’s Katie Schoolov contributed to this report.

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