Madrid, Spain (CNN)Ernesto Ruiz Lopez, a pharmacist in Madrid, says he’s never seen anything like this. He can’t get protective masks, gloves or hand sanitizer from his regular suppliers, because they won’t pay the sky-high prices, increasing at every stage of the chain, to obtain them. And he’s wary of the intermediary sellers he calls “absolute pirates” trying to profit from shortages during the global coronavirus pandemic.

Spain is one of the worst-affected countries in the world, with more than 5,000 deaths attributed to coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University. Severe limits on people’s movements here have been extended for a further two weeks and the authorities are trying to source sufficient protective equipment for a health service that is already very stretched.
Ruiz Lopez, who has owned a pharmacy near the Spanish capital’s Retiro Park for eight years, says his distributors won’t pay skyrocketing prices for these vital products. Masks are now fetching three or four times their normal price, while gloves are going for about double their usual value, he says. Other suppliers who have them in stock have abruptly raised prices, such as a 20% jump for hand sanitizer — and demand payment in advance.
“In the end, you would pay twice as much for something you know is worth half of that and you take the risk of not knowing what you’ll actually get,” Ruiz Lopez told CNN.
But nor can he afford to work unprotected. Ruiz Lopez and his five employees wear masks and gloves and limit the number of custo