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Tuesday Mar 24 2020
Web Desk

Pakistan bans export of protective gear in bid to tackle coronavirus

Web Desk

ISLAMABAD: The federal government on Tuesday placed a ban on the export of personal protective equipment after the country's coronavirus tally crossed 950.

In its bid to tackle the coronavirus, the government has banned the export of the N95 mask, surgical masks, and other face masks along with hand sanitisers, bio-hazard bags, goggles, disposable gloves, and gowns, said a notification from the trade ministry.

The move comes at a time when countries have rushed to protect their supply of masks as panic buying, hoarding and theft has spread over fears of the deadly coronavirus epidemic, with global health officials warning that stocks of protective gear were rapidly dwindling.

"We can't stop COVID-19 without protecting our health workers," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva on March 5, noting prices of masks have surged sixfold and the cost of ventilators has tripled.

The demand and price of protective medical gear, especially disposable face masks, has gone up since last December when, coronavirus appeared in Wuhan, China.

Earlier, the prices of masks surged after Pakistan confirmed its first two cases of the novel coronavirus.

Masks had either disappeared from medical stores in the city or were being sold at exorbitant prices across the metropolis.

A medical store owner told Geo News that a box of ordinary surgical masks that would have ordinarily cost somewhere between Rs300 to 400 was 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. On Jan 30, the DRAP had imposed a ban on the export of masks and other equipment, but on Feb 8 five companies were allowed to export.