Thursday Feb 27, 2020
Price of surgical masks skyrocketed in Karachi on Thursday after two cases of coronavirus were confirmed in the country.
According to reports, masks have either disappeared from medical stores in the city or are being sold at exorbitant prices across the metropolis.
A medical store owner told Geo News, a box of ordinary surgical masks which would have ordinarily cost somewhere between Rs300 to 400 is now being sold for more than Rs2,000.
Despite a ban by the government of Pakistan on the export of masks, nearly 10,000 N-95 masks and more than 3,600 ordinary regular masks were exported to China. Six companies were given special permission to export masks to China, leading to a shortage in the country.
Health officials, on the other hand, have blamed the shortage on hoarders.
Geo.tv spoke to multiple medical stores and surgical equipment retailers at Karachi's Stadium Road, as well as in Saddar and Lucky Star Chowk. All sellers confirmed that the face masks were out of stock after people started scrambling to purchase protective gear for themselves and their families.
Street hawkers, on the other hand, were reportedly selling face masks made out of cloth and plastic fibre — not the same as the popular N95 ones — around the city on cycles, kiosks, and 'thelas'.
Dr Asma Nasim, the Infectious Disease Specialist at Sindh Institute of Urology & Transplantation (SIUT), said Thursday the N-95 masks were not necessary for protection against coronavirus and that a regular one would be sufficient to keep people safe from the COVD-19.
The doctor added that the people who were healthy did not need to wear masks and that citizens should focus on maintaining hygiene and washing hands to remain healthy.
On Wednesday, Pakistan reported its first two cases of coronavirus, Special Assistant to PM on Health Dr Zafar Mirza confirmed. "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," Dr Mirza wrote on Twitter.
The second patient, identified in Islamabad, was shifted to quarantine in the capital's Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS).
He also noted that there was "no need to panic [as] things are under control".
Three isolation wards have been established in Karachi’s Civil, Jinnah and Aga Khan hospitals to treat the patients infected with coronavirus, Radio Pakistan reported.
Sindh Information Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah in an interview said the Provincial Disaster Management Authority has also been asked to take steps in this regard.
Shah said 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 disease.
On the other hand, Quetta’s deputy commissioner said Thursday the city's administration was taking action against those involved in hoarding and selling masks at a higher rate. Authorities will seal depots and medical stores that were selling masks at a price higher than usual, the official added.
Amid the coronavirus fear, the use of masks increased, creating a significant gap between the demand and supply, leading to a shortage. As demand rose, the city's traders started selling masks at a higher rate.