Searches for coronavirus protection skyrocket on Trade Me

Searches for face masks and hand sanitiser are skyrocketing on Trade Me as panic buyers seek to protect themselves from the deadly coronavirus.

"In the last seven days we've seen nearly 11,000 searches for 'face mask' which is up 370 percent on the year prior. On Sunday alone we saw 4,000 searches for 'face mask'," head of marketplace Lisa Stewart told Newshub.

"Searches for hand sanitiser were also up nearly 200 percent on the same time last year and we're seeing hundreds of hits every day."

Trade Me says it expects to see even more searches for these items over the coming weeks if the coronavirus continues to spread.

Sales aren't just booming online. Pharmacies say face masks are flying off the shelves as people buy the surgical masks as a precaution.

Dunedin Life Pharmacy posted on Facebook saying they "moved earth and sky" to get a shipment of surgical masks. But demand is so high, they've limited supply to five masks per customer.

On Monday, the Countdown Pharmacy in Newtown, Wellington completely ran out.

"Sorry customers, unfortunately all our face masks are sold out. Stock may arrive later this week," a sign instore read.

But do face masks actually work?

Despite their popularity, the masks may not be the best way to protect against the deadly virus.

Surgical masks block liquid droplets, but do not offer full protection against airborne viruses. 

The masks are not sealed, meaning particles can still enter the wearer's nose and mouth. They also leave eyes exposed.

As well as not being fully sealed, the masks may actually increase the risk.

"Sometimes it can actually present some risks, as you're putting your fingers up and down on your face, removing your mask, putting them next to your eyes," said Canada's chief public health officer Dr Theresa Tam last week.