Amazon Removes More Than a Million Items from Retail for Misleading Claims Against Coronavirus

The company also pulled products from merchants suspected of price gouging amid the COVID-19 outbreak

Amazon is cracking down on merchants who are capitalizing on the coronavirus outbreak.

The company confirmed to PEOPLE on Monday that it recently removed or blocked over a million products from its retail website that falsely advertised its effectiveness against the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The retail giant also pulled tens of thousands of products from merchants who are suspected of price gouging shoppers by inflating their prices amid public concerns over the illness, a spokesperson for Amazon told PEOPLE.

“Amazon has always required sellers provide accurate information on product detail pages and we remove those that violate our policies,” an Amazon representative said in a statement.

People wear protective face masks

Reuters was the first to report the news on Thursday.

The mass removal comes after Wired published an article detailing how prices for protective face masks have “sharply increased” during the global health epidemic. In one instance, the publication found a merchant selling a package of 100 disposable masks for as much as five times their normal price.

In another, the outlet reported that a box of 20 particulate respirators had almost quadrupled in price from $17 to $70. As of Monday, the same masks are being sold by some independent merchants for $132.

The recent public demand for protective gear has created a shortage of face masks for health care professionals, leading to U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams to urge Americans to “STOP BUYING MASKS.”

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“Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS! They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!” he shared on Twitter Saturday.

He later added, “The best way to protect yourself and your community is with everyday preventive actions, like staying home when you are sick and washing hands with soap and water, to help slow the spread of respiratory illness. Get your #FluShot– fewer flu patients = more resources for #COVID19.”

Other healthcare officials agree that there is little a mask can do to prevent falling ill with the coronavirus, as people are more likely to contract the virus by touching a contaminated surface.

“There is no role for these masks in the community,” Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said last week, per The New York Times. “These masks need to be prioritized for health care professionals that as part of their job are taking care of individuals.”

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