TANDO MOHAMMAD KHAN                  -             The prices of hand sanitizer and personal protective equipment, including face masks, have increased manifolds across Sindh following the confirmation of some coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the country, including one in Hyderabad.

The stocks of protective equipment such as surgical masks, common masks, dust masks, gloves, goggles, safety footwear, and hand sanitizers have disappeared from the local markets.

Talking to this correspondent, owners of medical stores and surgical equipment retailers in Hyderabad as well as in Tando Muhammad Khan confirmed that they were running out of face masks. They said the shortage developed following people hurried to purchase protective gear for themselves and their families after the first coronavirus case was reported in the country.

Street hawkers, on the other hand, are reportedly selling face masks made of cloth and plastic fiber—not the same as the popular N95 ones—around the city on cycles, kiosks, and ‘thelas’.

Presently, N95 mask, used to protect from coronavirus, is not available at medical stores in Hyderabad, Tando Mohammad Khan, Thatta and Badin, as well as with the wholesalers.

In some areas, the N-95 mask is being sold at a price between Rs400 and Rs500 instead of Rs60. The price of the surgical mask packet has also increased from Rs1,700 to Rs2,100 while the common mask is being sold at Rs50 instead of Rs10.

The profiteers have increased the prices of surgical masks, N95 masks, common masks and other protective equipment due to poor check and balance system.

However, another factor for the shortage of masks and other protective equipment in the local markets is that their import from China has been suspended for the last six weeks.