China steps in to regulate face mask prices amid coronavirus outbreak

Competition regulators in China have stepped in to ensure the price of face masks do not skyrocket amid the country's coronavirus outbreak.

The new viral illness has infected more than 400 people and killed at least nine.

It comes with the World Health Organization meeting in Geneva to determine whether the outbreak should be declared a global health crisis.

Beijing's Market Supervision and Regulation Bureau, China's competition regulator, issued a statement on its WeChat account Wednesday with guidelines for businesses, to help "ensure the stability of prices for goods such as masks and other items related to the epidemic".

In Shanghai, supermarket staff continually restocked shelves as shoppers snapped up the available products.

Some hospitals and clinics in the financial hub set up stations at the entrances to their emergency units to screen people with flu symptoms.

The coronavirus has caused concern due to its genetic similarities with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.