North East trades supplier sells 10,000 litres of hand sanitiser and 'millions of face masks' in coronavirus surge

A North East business has reported unprecedented demand for supplies as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Trade suppliers Caswells Group, in Billingham, has sold 10,000 litres of hand sanitiser gel and millions of face masks as the deadly virus spreads throughout the country and around the world.

The group is one of the UK’s largest independent suppliers of industrial consumables including personal protective equipment (PPE) tools, welding supplies, printing and embroidery.

Its shelves are currently empty of gel and masks while it awaits new stock following the surge in demand from new and existing trade clients.

Tourists in Edinburgh continue to take precautions and wear masks due to the coronavirus outbreak


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They are now bracing themselves for a run on disposable suits and rubber gloves.

Bosses at the company say they have never seen anything like it.

The have even shipped some face masks to China where they were originally made.

Caswells Group commercial director Paul Murphy said: “Caswell Group has been trading for forty eight years but we’ve seen nothing like it.


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Paul Murphy, General Manager of Caswells Group, workplace supplies in Billingham. Picture by Doug Moody Photography

“We have to consider business ethics. We don’t want to let down our regular customers but equally we don’t want to turn down new business.

“Masks are imported from China, but we know that one order went straight back there because the Chinese have run out.

“So a pallet was shipped here, bought by a customer and shipped back where it came from.”


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The demand by the trade industries mirrors that of the general public who have emptied supermarket shelves of hand gel and toilet rolls.

Trade suppliers Caswells Group, in Billingham, has sold 10,000 litres of hand sanitiser gel and millions of face masks as the deadly virus spreads throughout the country and around the world.

Mr Murphy added: “Unlike the supermarkets we haven’t run out of toilet tissue. If anyone is desperate they know where to come.”

It comes as the first case of Covid-19 (coronavirus) was confirmed in County Durham bringing the total number for the North East to seven.


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There have been no confirmed cases in Gateshead, South Tyneside, Northumberland or Hartlepool, as of Wednesday, March 11.

Nationally, six people have died from the virus and there have been 382 confirmed cases.

Health minister Nadine Dorries became the first MP to catch the virus and has been self-isolating at home.