Srinagar, Mar7: Panic over the novel coronavirus has led to the shortage of face masks and sanitizers in the summer capital Srinagar.
The mask boom has prompted sellers to jack up prices and exploit demand. During the past one week people across the city markets were buying in bulk to send to their families and relatives.
Panicky people are seen knocking on the doors of pharmacists to buy face masks to prevent being infected. Though some people are able to get them while majority return with empty hands.
Though no positive cases of coronavirus infection have been seen in Jammu and Kashmir, chemists confirmed the shortage of masks.
It may be recalled that the guidelines issued by the J&K health department in its advisories, mention the usage of handkerchiefs to maintain cough hygiene.
Danish Lateef, a salesman at a local pharmacy store outside Shri Mahraja Hari Singh (SMHS) Hospital, said the sale of masks in his shop has gone up due to the panic surrounding coronavirus. “The stock of face masks is now over. The sanitizers and handwash items are also short. This is panic buying, which was seen earlier during outbreak of swine flu,” he said.
He added that a month ago he was selling not more than 5-10 masks a day, and over the past three or four days, the number crossed 100, resulting into the shortage of stock.
Masks are available from Rs 20 to Rs 100 a piece. Some people complained that the price has doubled for clinical masks. “What was sold at Rs 20 now costs for Rs 50 owing to shortage,” he said.
A patient searching for the face mask outside JVC hospital Bemina said: “When supplies are short and demand is high, then there could be bad practices like hoarding in order to sell them at higher prices, and that’s why we are unable to buy a single mask.”
A senior pulmonologist at Chest Disease hospital said that, wearing a mask is only one of the precautions to prevent infections. “Importance should also be given to other preventive aspects like washing hands, keeping distance from an infected person and maintaining cough hygiene,” he said.
The swine flu scare that had gripped Kashmir some five years before had led to brisk sales of masks. However, this time in the case of coronavirus, doctors said the masks offer little protection.
“I have sold the entire stock of masks in last four days. This week I am planning to order a fresh consignment from outside. Looking at the situation across the world I am not sure if the order is delivered soon,” said Abdul Rashid, a pharmacist in Karan Nagar.
He further said: “Mostly school going children, senior citizens and patients with bronchial and respiratory problems are buying them. With different medical advisories doing rounds on internet, the masks and sanitizers are selling out fast.”
China’s coronavirus outbreak, which began in December 2019, has reportedly now spread to dozens of countries. The World Health Organisation (WHO), has already declared it public health emergency.
Doctors had stated that the threat cannot be ruled out in the valley because of tourist inflow in valley and also many of students studying in Iran and their movement from Iran to Kashmir may bring the infection here. Chances cannot be ruled out that 31 cases have already been declared positive in India.
As per media report, coronavirus has infected more than 9,0000 people globally and caused over 3,000 deaths.