Call it panic buying or what you will, commonly used protective kits of coronavirus are becoming increasingly scarce across the country. Face masks, hand wash liquids and sanitisers, believed to be handy kits to ward off the virus, are scantily found even in the pharmacies of big cities including those of the capital. Although masks, of various grades and quality, are in use among the urbanites for sometime as protection against dust and air pollution, physicians dealing with corona do not seem to consider them helpful to snuff or fend off the virus contagion. Still, globally masks are abundantly in use -- not only among the common people in public places but also the medicos attending affected patients in severely corona-struck countries. But hand wash and sanitisers are strongly prescribed for constant use, short supply of which is sure to cause panic.
With the news of three persons tested positive with coronavirus in the country this week, people have begun to throng in large numbers to buy these stuffs, especially sanitisers. But to the dismay of many, stores and pharmacies are supposedly not able to meet their demand, and if at all, prices charged are abnormally high -- often beyond the reach of the poor. While hoarding of these stuffs by a section of the consumers as well as sellers is believed to be one of the reasons for the scarcity, concerned quarters including suppliers tend to believe that the scarcity is not totally manmade or artificial and that although short supply and flawed distribution have made the situation worse, government intervention including punitive measures, if necessary, may help redress the problem. However, there is a definite reason to believe that profit motive of unscrupulous business people is playing foul with the pandemic that may potentially unleash calamity in a country like Bangladesh where in the event of an outbreak, the capacity to contain it would be rather too challenging.
There are allegations that in the absence of proper monitoring from concerned authorities, a section of traders are cashing in on public misery. Reports say the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) in a meeting with drug makers and sellers took some decisions to help check the price hike of hand sanitisers. The decisions include taking legal steps against those who sell sanitisers at prices beyond their permissible rates. The meeting also asked all concerned not to sell more than 500 pieces of hand sanitisers to a single distributor, and not more than one piece to an individual to avert any artificial crisis. It has been learnt that currently seven companies are producing hand sanitisers, and their prices have already been published in national newspapers. In another development, the High Court has directed the government to operate mobile courts to monitor market to check the price hike and also discipline the distribution and marketing of masks, hand wash and sanitisers.
Required preparedness that seemed missing in the country over coronavirus until recently in the public domain has lately set in, with quite a degree of seriousness. And indeed it is the public alertness that can reinforce government action more than perhaps it alone is capable of -- only if the much needed preventive kits are easily available to them.
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