Members of the public are no longer allowed to buy N95 and surgical masks on Amazon as of this week. The company announced the updated rules on key medical supplies in a post shared to its sellers' forum on April 1.
While Amazon had previously tightened its grip on vendors, informing them that no new listings for such supplies would be accepted and removing existing offers that didn't meet its requirements, these guidelines didn't extend to consumers. Now, anyone hoping to buy "high-demand medical products like N95 masks, surgical masks, facial shields, surgical gowns, surgical gloves, and large-volume sanitizers" will have to fill out a form to be vetted by Amazon. Only hospitals and government organizations will be approved.
What took so long? — Amazon has come under fire for just about every decision it's made in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Between lax oversight on price-gouging for necessary supplies and products peddling dangerous coronavirus 'cures,' not to mention a blatant disregard for the welfare of its workers, the company has made questionable move after questionable move.
The latest policy update is a necessary change; there's no doubt that our already-overextended healthcare workers on the front lines should be prioritized. While it's become increasingly clear that public use of masks will also be a key factor in stamping out COVID-19, despite top-down recommendations of the opposite, medical-grade protective equipment for the people actively treating — and thus exposed to — the virus is a necessity, especially now that such equipment has now reached scary lows in the U.S.
In the post explaining the new rules, Amazon said:
As part of our continued response to COVID-19, Amazon is prioritizing the supply of key medical supplies to hospitals and government organizations.
You may have offers on one or more products (ASINs) that will now be available exclusively to hospitals and government organizations, which are in urgent need of high-demand medical products like N95 masks, surgical masks, facial shields, surgical gowns, surgical gloves, and large-volume sanitizers. Select ASINs of these product types will no longer be available to the broader public on Amazon.com and AmazonBusiness.com.
Amazon is waiving its typical fees for all products that fall under this umbrella through the beginning of this summer. The company says it hopes this will "encourage our selling partners to make additional inventory of these products available at competitive prices to these customers with the greatest need."