The FBI has ordered $40,000 of hand sanitiser and face masks “in case the coronavirus becomes a pandemic in the United States,” according to documents seen by CNBC.

COVID-19, as the coronavirus is officially named, was declared a public health emergency by the government in January. On Friday, the number of US cases was confirmed at 34, with more expected.

In its purchase order, labelled as being for “pandemic preparedness”, the bureau said it needs those items in case the coronavirus spreads widely throughout the US.

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The supply order includes face masks from manufacturer 3M and disinfectants, including hand sanitiser, from PDI Healthcare. The masks and sanitiser will be distributed across the country to strategically located stockpiles. The FBI has given the companies just a week to fulfil the order.

This relatively small order, described as a preemptive measure, illustrates that government agencies are getting serious about the possibility of the virus reaching pandemic levels.

PDI was chosen as the hand sanitiser supplier as their products kill 54 microorganisms in under a minute and are top-rated in healthcare. This was the justification for not going through a formal bidding process for the contract. 

Last week, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention urged US hospitals to prepare for an outbreak, stating that now is time to open up pandemic plans and check that things are in order.

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