A man works at a distribution station at the 855,000 square-foot Amazon fulfillment center in Staten Island, one of the five boroughs of New York City, on February 5, 2019
A man works at a distribution station at the 855,000 square-foot Amazon fulfillment center in Staten Island, one of the five boroughs of New York City, on February 5, 2019
Photo: Getty Images

Update: An email sent to Amazon third-party sellers gave a more extreme impression of Amazon’s new policy, at least according to the company. The email indicated that products shipped to fulfillment centers in the future would not be accepted. We’ve slightly tweaked the language below to reflect Amazon’s stance.

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Amazon will prioritize medical supplies and household staples sold by independent third-party sellers in the United States and the European Union. Amazon made the announcement to sellers through an email sent Tuesday morning and mentioned that “other high-demand products” will also be prioritized.

“We are seeing increased online shopping and as a result, some products such as household staples and medical supplies are out of stock,” an Amazon spokesperson told Gizmodo via email.

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“With this in mind, we are temporarily prioritizing household staples, medical supplies, and other high-demand products coming into our fulfillment centers so we can more quickly receive, restock, and deliver these products to customers.”

It’s not immediately clear what those additional “high-demand products” might include. The new rules will be in effect until at least April 5 and will only apply to sellers who ship their goods to Amazon warehouses before they make their way to customers. Sellers are free to continue listing third-party sales on Amazon, they just can’t do fulfillment through the tech giant. Any goods currently in transit to Amazon fulfillment centers will still be accepted, according to an Amazon spokesperson.

Amazon’s decision to restrict the kind of goods it sells is tied to the covid-19 pandemic that has swept the globe, sickening at least 185,000 people and killing 7,330. At least 4,661 people have become ill in the U.S. and 85 have died as of this morning, according to the Johns Hopkins University online coronavirus tracker, and those numbers are expected to grow considerably in the coming days and weeks.

Countries around the world are struggling with supply-chain issues as citizens try to stock up before their regions go into lockdown. Many areas of the world have instituted measures to control the spread of the disease over the past week, with large parts of Spain and France restricting movement. States and cities in the U.S. have also started to mandate that public spaces like restaurants, bars, and movie theaters close down indefinitely.

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Amazon announced on Monday that it plans to hire 100,000 new workers to meet demand as the coronavirus spreads and the public moves to online orders almost exclusively. But that will obviously take time, and Amazon appears to be moving into a wartime-rationing style posture that we’re seeing all around the world.

Amazon stressed that it would be in contact with sellers as things change.

“We understand this is a change for our selling partners and appreciate their understanding as we temporarily prioritize these products for customers,” Amazon told Gizmodo in a statement.

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Update, 10:37am ET: Updated to clarify that the new rules apply to the U.S. and the European Union.

Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog

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