Coronavirus: Cough and cold medicine prices hiked by 10.7%

Retailers hiked the price of cough and cold medicines by 10.7% last week according to a snapshot analysis of the impact of coronavirus on the economy.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) using online prices set by a number of UK retailers showed the sharp increase for the week ending 29 March compared to the week before.

It was the most marked rise among a set of “high-demand products” that saw increased demand from consumers during the early stages of the pandemic.

A new, continuous cough is one of the main symptoms of the virus.

Other items saw much more modest price increases, with pet food and paracetamol up by just over 2% while handwash and toilet rolls were up only marginally.

A few of the products such as antibacterial wipes, baby food and pasta saw prices fall slightly.

Overall, the basket of 22 high-demand products saw prices on average rise by 1.1%.

The report did not give an explanation about why some of the prices had risen.

Britain’s competition watchdog has previously raised concerns that businesses might seek to exploit the situation – for example by charging excessive prices.

Sky News has contacted the British Retail Consortium for comment on the ONS figures.

The supermarket industry has been a beneficiary of higher revenues during the early part of the pandemic, with figures this week showing shoppers spent £1.9bn on stockpiling groceries ahead of the UK lockdown.

Companies have responded by expanding delivery operations and in some cases taking on thousands of extra staff, as well as providing measures to try to help the most vulnerable customers and NHS workers.

The ONS data was part of a wider analysis of the initial impact of the pandemic across the UK economy.

It also showed that, for 3,642 businesses surveyed over the period from 9 March to 22 March, 27% said they were reducing staffing in the short term.

Those figures suggested an even bigger impact to come as it was only on 20 March that Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered a shutdown of much of the UK economy.

The British Chambers of Commerce, a business lobby, separately reported that almost half of British companies expect to lay off 50% or more of their workforce temporarily.

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