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Coronavirus: Apparent face mask sales caught on video in Winnipeg parking lot

Candid camera captures apparent parking lot mask sales

Face masks are in short supply in Canada amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but videos taken in a Winnipeg apartment building parking lot last Tuesday show what appears to be the sale of the coveted items — for $50 a box.

In one video, shot by a resident of the building, a woman is seen handing off what appears to be two boxes of face masks to another woman in the parking lot.

A second video shows another exchange of what is believed to be boxes of face masks through a car window.

READ MORE: Will homemade masks protect us from the coronavirus?

Another resident investigated and met the woman believed to be selling masks in the lobby of the building and recorded the conversation.

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“I have like disposable medical masks or like those N95,” the woman can be heard telling the resident in the recorded conversation.

“So which one do you want?”

The woman offers to sell a box of 10 N95 masks for $55 and a box of 15 surgical masks for $45.

“If you want more we can negotiate the price,” she said.

Unmasking a timely debate: Do you need to wear a face mask in public?
Unmasking a timely debate: Do you need to wear a face mask in public?

N95 masks, which are in short supply, are needed by frontline health-care staff during the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, the federal Ministry of Public Services and Procurement put a call out for Canadian manufacturers who are are able to help the government’s supply of protective gear, such as disposable N95 masks, disposable surgical masks, gloves and hand sanitizer, during the pandemic.

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READ MORE: Coronavirus: Canadian companies now manufacturing ventilators, surgical masks

A representative at Stevens Home Medical Supplies Store in Winnipeg said the company was selling a box of 20 N95 masks for $45, although they are now sold out. The representative said a box of 50 three-ply procedure masks was selling for $14.48.

The brand and rating of the masks being exchanged in the parking lot is not clear.

When Global News went to the building where the alleged black market sales were taking place, another person, this time a man, was spotted making what appeared to be a sale in the parking lot.

Two women said they had purchased two boxes for $50 each.

When confronted by Global News, the man denied taking any money.

“From me, it’s free because I have some so somebody needed help,” he said.

The man said he ordered the masks from China for personal use.

When reached by phone, the woman captured on video exchanging what appeared to be boxes of masks also said she was just giving them away.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Counterfeit Chinese-made face masks pulled offline after Global News probe

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On Wednesday, Premier Brian Pallister said he will be taking “appropriate action,” if he finds evidence of people profiting off face masks.

“It’s shameful and disappointing,” Pallister said.

“It goes counter to everything that I’m seeing from the vast, vast majority of Manitoba citizens who are respectful of the needs of our frontline workers to offer the services that we depend on in health care.”