Coronavirus scare: Surgical masks turn dear, price hike by 400 percent

Hyderabad: Notwithstanding the fear-psychosis that has gripped the world in the wake of the outbreak of coronavirus some sectors are making a killing, thanks to the medical advisories that are being issued at regular intervals.

For instance, surgical masks, which are worn for general protection against air pollutants, are selling like hot cakes. Its sales picked up in Hyderabad after a 24-year-old tested positive on Monday. Despite the tragic fallout, shopkeepers have jacked up prices to exorbitant levels.

On a normal day, the three-ply surgical mask, which is commonly used by doctors, would be sold at Rs 3-5 per piece. However, capitalizing on the prevalent scare, they are being sold for anything between Rs 18 and 25 per piece, which translates to a whopping 400 percent increase in cost!

Mantriji, owner of Hindustan Medical and Surgicals in Secunderabad, complained that there are not enough masks in supply too. “Wholesalers sell surgical masks packets that have 100 masks and sold for Rs 500. So, we retailers buy this packet. Now, the wholesalers have begun to demand Rs 2,500 per packet, saying that the supply is less.”

He added, “We will try to give masks free of cost to people, because lot of exploitation is happening in the name of it. Government should also distribute these free of cost.”

Sayed, an employee at a medical shop, observed how people, in a state of worry, are ready to buy the comparatively costly N-95 masks.

“The N-95 masks, which were earlier sold for Rs 80-90 are selling for Rs 200. Interestingly, people are ready to buy N-95 masks despite the cost because it has a more effective filter.”

While the disposable three-ply surgical masks is a mixture of non-woven fabric along with material that acts like a filter, N-95 masks are solely designed to prevent the user’s exposure to air-borne contaminants. Surgical masks may not properly filter infectious agents, while N-95 masks can filter smaller infectious contaminants.

Meanwhile, medical shop owners also observed how several middlemen are destroying the market.

“Poor quality masks are being sold in the market. And they don’t serve any purpose. People need to be cautious in such a scenario and avoid public gatherings as much as possible,” said K Shylaja, Multi-purpose Health Assistant (MPHA), Addagutta Primary Health Centre.

Amritha Mohan

Amritha Mohan is a reporter at the NewsMeter. Shortly after completing her Master's in Communication at the University of Hyderabad, she began teaching courses on media and culture as a guest lecturer at the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, North-Eastern Hill University (NEHU), Shillong. Amritha has previously interned with news organisations such as Greater Kashmir and Newslaundry. A lover of travel and photography, she spends most of her time planning road trips to the North-East. Nothing makes her happier than a green turf and a team to play football with. She primarily reports on education, tech, human-interesting and critical features.

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