New Delhi: To restock pharmacies which are facing shortages of face masks along with hand sanitisers due to the coronavirus-triggered binge buying, industry insiders contended on the need to divert supplies along with imposing a total ban on exports of these items.
Accordingly, pharmacies cite the phenomenon of binge fear buying has caused the shortage, as people rush to medical stores to get their hands on sanitisers, N95 or simple surgical face masks to protect themselves.
The panic buying was triggered lately due to the rise in the number of coronavirus cases in India.
Not just face masks, even hand sanitisers are not available at many pharmacies across major cities like Delhi-NCR, claim industry observers.
“We have received information about the shortage of hand sanitisers and face masks in Delhi-NCR region,” All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists’ President Jagannath Shinde told IANS.
“We have asked ‘Super Stockists’ to re-route supplies from the less affected areas to metropolitan cities, so that these items are readily made available in these places. However, restoring availability might take some time.”
Similarly, Shirish Ghoge, an independent industry expert and a former senior director with Abbott and Sanofi said that govt has rightly banned the exports of N95 masks.
“They should now ban surgical masks of ply 2 and 3 also which were relaxed for exports in the notification of Feb 8 by DGFT; since all masks are now in short supply and panic buying is going on,” he said.
“The government should also consider engaging respective state drug control authorities to ensure adequate stocks with all pharmacies are available in cities such as Delhi and Mumbai. They have drug inspectors, who regulate these pharmacies and hence have better control on their sales and purchases.”
Recently, the ban on the export of some personal protection equipments (PPEs) including surgical masks and gloves was set aside, except the N95 masks.
However, Abhay Pandey, National President, All Food and Drug Licence Holder Foundation (AFDLHF), has demanded that exports of all items, including hand sanitisers, gloves, PPEs be immediately banned.
He pointed out that in the international market, the wholesale going rate of face masks and sanitisers have climbed to over $12, which makes exports far more remunerative for manufacturers than supply to the domestic market.
As per some estimates, the average cost of manufacture of surgical face masks is only around 40-45 paise, while that for N95 mask is about Rs 10-12. But due to market dynamics, these are being sold at a much higher price.
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