With new confirmed cases of the COVID-19 being detected in India, stocks of surgical masks, pollution masks and the basic N-95 masks are selling like hot cakes.
By Savyata Mishra
City chemists and druggists opened their shops today to a new surge in demand for masks, as Bengalureans brace themselves to the coronavirus epidemic, after a recent case of COVID- 19 contracted by a city’s techie in Hyderabad, was reported.
Maruthi Medicals in Vijaynagar sold four to five pieces of masks daily a fortnight ago. However, in the morning hour alone, they sold about 300 pieces. The pharmacists said that people were buying five to ten masks each—in fear of increasing price or running dry of stock.
Suraksha Munot Jain, the owner of the store, said, “We have stock as of now. But looking at the demand there is a possibility that the distributors and manufacturers will hold their stock so that they can sell it in dire times, to earn maximum profit.”
She informed that many of these masks are imported from China, and since there is a disruption in supply, masks are scarce in the market.
“The market has been dry since 15 days now. Firstly, the H1N1 and then Coronavirus, people have been buying even surgical masks to maintain precaution against the virus,” said Deepak Jain, a pharmacist at Hari Om Medicals. He only had pollution masks, which were selling fast. He avoided buying the N95 masks which had become expensive.
An N-95 mask was sold at around Rs. 100-200 depending on the brand. But recently, the landing price for retailers has been on a rise, due to which many stores have stopped selling this variety of mask. Landing price is the cost retailers have to pay to distributors.
“Initially a surgical mask that used to cost Rs. 2-10 now costs around Rs. 18-20. These masks are not meant for protection against the virus, but people still buy any type of mask they can find,” Deepak added.
Anil, a student who was buying masks at one of the counters said, “I travel via public transport daily for college. I need these masks as a protection from dust and virus and the diseases that follow them. But because of the steep price of the pollution masks these days, I have to buy surgical masks even though it won’t be of any help.”
Samson PG, Deputy Registrar of Karnataka State Pharmacy Council, said, “There is considerable stress amongst pharmacists regarding the masks. The demand is increasing every day and the stocks are depleting. There is almost a 200 per cent increase in the price of these masks. The state does not have a manufacturing prowess in masks. On top of that, much of what India produces is exported to other countries due to high demand and profit earned.”
M M Pharma, a distributor of masks across Bengaluru said that they have no stock for any kind of masks. Another distributor, Prajwal Pharma said that manufacturers are quoting a very high price for a piece of an N-95 mask. The mask which cost them Rs. 55-65 now costs them Rs. 250.”
Dr Vaishali Ranawat, a doctor in Vijaynagar hospital said, “The government needs to take immediate steps to address this shortage of masks in pharmacies. In the coming days, there will be hoarding which will result in, people in need of the mask not getting it.”
Today, the Indian government restricted the export of about 26 Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs), antibiotics, vitamins and hormones so as to overcome the shortage of drugs in the Indian market, a report said. The report also suggested that China accounted for 67.56 per cent of India’s total imports of drugs in 2018-19.