–Health officials believe hoarding of respiratory masks has created an artificial shortage in country
KARACHI: Hours after the confirmation of two positive cases of coronavirus in Pakistan, prices of respiratory masks have surged in Pakistan.
As their demand increase, the masks, which were being sold for Rs5, are now being sold for Rs20, and N95 masks, which are recommended by health experts for protection against coronavirus, saw a 10 times increase in their price. Pakistan Today on Thursday observed that a box of ordinary surgical masks, which was being sold for Rs300-400, is now being sold for more than Rs2,000, and at most medical stores, N95 masks are not available considering how expensive they have become.
Medical stores have rationed the sales of respiratory masks by deciding to sell one mask per customer until the supplies are restored.
Moreover, the general population is misinformed about these masks as people believe that surgical masks are a good enough precautionary measure, while the truth is that only N95 masks provide the necessary protection.
Although the government had banned the export of masks, approx 10,000 N95 masks and 3,700 ordinary masks were exported to China as a result of six companies being granted special permission to export masks. This is reminiscent of Pakistan exporting wheat prior to the wheat shortage. Health officials, however, believe that the current rise in prices and shortage is a result of hoarding, which created an artificial shortage.
China is the world’s largest producer of the masks, with a reported capacity of 20 million pieces. The domestic demand, however, is approximately 50-60 million per day.
On Wednesday, Pakistan reported its first two cases of the deadly virus. The cases were confirmed by Special Assistant to Prime Minister on National Health Services Dr Zafar Mirza.
“I can confirm first two cases of coronavirus in Pakistan. Both cases are being taken care of according to clinical standard protocols & both of them are stable,” he said in a tweet while asking the citizens to avoid panicking or worrying “as things are under control”.
Sindh Information Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah said that the Provincial Disaster Management Authority has also been asked to take steps in this regard. In addition, he said that the details of those who travelled with the person who tested positive for coronavirus have been sought so that they could also be screened.
The provincial minister stressed that federal and provincial governments should work together to control the epidemic.