Mumbai: At a time when the world is facing an epidemic-like situation due to the rise in the number of coronavirus patients, medical shops in the city are charging exorbitant rates for no-contact thermometers. This ‘unethical’ behaviour of medical shops has been highlighted by the All Food and Drug License Holders Foundation (AFDLHF).

The association AFDLHF is mulling on writing a letter to the Maharashtra government to urge it to issue directions for medical shops to sell necessary materials (masks and no-contact thermometers) at reasonable prices.

Abhay Pandey, president, AFDLHF, said earlier that the price of no-contact thermometers was Rs 500 to Rs 800 in the city, but since the outbreak of the new strain of coronavirus in China, the prices of these highly advanced thermometers have tripled. Moreover, remaining items of the kit (towel, medicine and stethoscope) are being sold at a higher price ranging from Rs 2,500 to Rs 3,000. These thermometers allow detecting human temperature from a distance of 15cm, which makes it safer than traditional thermometers.

“Most of these thermometers are being used in hospitals and clinics as a safety precaution, as they do not require contact with patients to read the body temperature. Their demand has increased now with the coronavirus outbreak. However, we have learned that even medical stores with such stock are selling it 3 to 4 times the actual price,” he said.

Medical staffers, who are in close contact with the suspected cases of coronavirus, need to use N95 masks. However, as in the case of no-contact thermometers, there is also an acute shortage of three-layer surgical and N95 masks in the state.

Prasad Danave, president of Retail and Dispensing Chemist Association, said that earlier, manufactures were charging 80 paisa per mask. However, now, they charge Rs 12 per piece, which means that they are clearly taking advantage of the coronavirus outbreak. “China was the main supplier of the masks. However, since the outbreak of the virus, the supply has stopped completely. As Maharashtra does not have any major manufacture, we are dependent on neighbouring states, which are giving priority to their own citizens,” he said.

Taking advantage of it, many unqualified manufactures have started producing it locally. These masks don't meet the standards of World Health Organisation (WHO) and the association has raised questions on their quality. “These local manufactures are selling these masks at a high price to make money for themselves. Due to the lack of a regulatory body, there is no check on the quality of these masks. Customers using them could be more susceptible to the infection,” Danave added.

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