The website said the “socially responsible and Australian owned company” ran a “community supply program” to provide masks “free or at heavily subsidised prices” to vulnerable patients who needed and could not afford or find them.
“Our goal is to serve the community and we understand that there is a shortage of quality face mask,” the website said.
While the company was sourcing “scare stock” from overseas, “factories have advised that their production has been reserved by their government and therefore we are not receiving more stock until further notice,” it said.
“We will work to resolve our pricing issues and quantity policies as soon as these supply issues have been resolved.”
Official health advice is face masks are not necessary for the general public, because the chance of contracting the deadly COVID-19 virus in Australia is considered rare.
The federal government has released 1.3 million masks from the national medical stockpile to be distributed to doctors, health workers and pharmacists through primary health networks, but these may not be sold.
Doctors are advised to wear P2 masks while testing and treating patients suspected of having COVID-19, while these patients wear surgical masks.
While the World Health Organisation has declared the coronavirus outbreak – which has infected more than 69,000 people, most of them in China – a global health emergency, only 15 cases have been recorded in Australia, and each of those patients has been isolated in hospital.
Six have been released after making a full recovery, while the remaining nine patients are in a stable condition.
Further comment has been sought from Livingstone.
Dana is health and industrial relations reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.