It’s important to start this piece with the official advice: Buying overpriced facemasks probably isn’t going to save you from the Coronavirus, according to the experts:

“It seems kind of intuitively obvious that if you put something—whether it’s a scarf or a mask—in front of your nose and mouth, that will filter out some of these viruses that are floating around out there,” says Dr. William Schaffner, professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University. The only problem: that’s not effective against respiratory illnesses like the flu and COVID-19. If it were, “the CDC would have recommended it years ago,” he says. “It doesn’t, because it makes science-based recommendations.”

Viruses, you might remember from your junior cert science, are many times smaller than bacteria. The little buggers can sail right through the microscopic holes in a facemask. They’re not effective – it’s a bit like using the net from a football goals to try and catch minnows – they’ll swim right through it.

Once you actually have Coronavirus, the facemasks might come in handy to prevent you from spreading it to others, because when you cough and sneeze, the virus will be in the tiny water droplets coming out of your mouth, and the mask might catch them. But coughing into your sleeve is just as effective.

But understandably, plenty of people are trying to buy them anyway, along with hand sanitizer, oceans of Dettol anti-bacterial spray, and all the rest of it, presumably on the basis that if they do no good, they’ll certainly do no harm. And as ever, greed is never far away. We’re not usually fond of quoting Paul Murphy around these parts, but he’s not wrong here, is he?

Such is the economic impact of the Coronavirus, in fact, that facemasks are now selling for five times more than a barrel of crude oil.

And it’s not just the facemasks either:

Now, Murphy’s suggestion for price controls on hand sanitizer is a little ridiculous, mainly because some price rises are probably inevitable. Irish pharmacies are going to be competing for supply of the stuff with UK and French and German pharmacies. Price controls might end up forcing the stuff to be sold at a loss – or in other words, preventing it from being sold at all.

But still, if you want to buy hand sanitizer, your best bet is to avoid Hickeys Pharmacy. Shower of chancers.