ISLAMABAD           -          The District Administration on Thursday imposed restriction on profiteering of masks after the reports of selling of items on high prices emerged.

Citizens thronged towards pharmacies and medical stores to purchase masks after the confirmation of first case of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the city.

However they complained that either the masks were not available or were being sold on exorbitant prices.

Citizens also complained that they failed in getting N-95 masks and they were only being provided simple masks.

A citizen Hammad Ahmed said that simple surgical face mask price was being sold on the price of Rs40 to Rs50, which was earlier available for Rs10 only.

He said that the retailers said that good quality mask was available in Rs80.

Another resident of the city Saleem Iqbal said that where big pharmacies were also denying availability of N-95 masks, some were charging upto Rs800 for the mask.

A pharmacist Muhammad Kamran said that the N-95 mask is useable for a week while the prices are highly increased.

Meanwhile, soon after the reports of shortage of masks surfaced in the city, the district administration issued an order for vendors and shopkeepers to avoid hoarding and profiteering of safety masks.

The notification issued by District Magistrate Muhammad Hamza Shafqat said “Whereas it has been confirmed that two cases of the novel coronavirus have been diagnosed in Pakistan, all shopkeepers and vendors of Islamabad city are advised against all kinds of hoarding and profiteering of safety masks and make their availability possible.”

It also said that and whereas in my opinion there are sufficient grounds for proceeding u/s 144 CrPC 1898 and immediate prevention and speedy remedy is justified and the directions hereinafter appearing are necessary.

The order also said that this shall come into force with an immediate effect and shall remain in force for a period of two months. So far, four suspected patients and one confirmed patient was reported at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences.

Notwithstanding the expiry of this order, everything done, action taken, liability penalty or punishment incurred, investigation, enquiry  or proceedings pending against offenders in the court of magistrates having powers under the code of criminal procedure and punishment in respect of this orders hall be continued or launched as the order has not expired.

After the issuance of the order, some of the largest pharmacies started distributing free of cost masks amongst the citizens.

Long queues of the citizens were observed in evening to get free of cost face masks as a preventive measure.