SEJONG, March 4 (Yonhap) -- Online sales of face masks and hand sanitizers spiked in January due to the new coronavirus outbreak, despite a slowdown in overall online shopping, government data showed Wednesday.
Purchases of face masks and other miscellaneous items made via computers, smartphones and tablets soared 57 percent on-year to 443 billion won (US$373 million) in January, according to the data from Statistics Korea.
It was the highest annualized growth rate since March 2018 and up 66 percent from a month earlier.
Sales of household items spiked 22.2 percent on-year to 993 billion won, driven by brisk shipments of hand sanitizers. The amount was also up 9.8 percent from December.
Online sales of cosmetics rose 25.4 percent on-year but sank 5.3 percent from the prior month due to a drop in the number of Chinese visitors to South Korea.
Since mid-January, South Korea has been gripped by the outbreak of COVID-19, with the number of confirmed cases and deaths reaching more than 5,300 and 32, respectively, as of Wednesday.
In January, the total value of online transactions stood at 12.4 trillion won, up 15.6 percent from a year earlier.
The growth rate was slower than the 18.6 percent surge in December. The amount was also down from 12.7 trillion won in December and the all-time high of 12.9 trillion won in November.
The slowdown was attributed to a four-day Lunar New Year holiday and a 3.5 percent drop in sales of clothes due to mild weather.
South Korea is one of the most wired countries in the world, with its smartphone penetration rate ranking among the world's highest.
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