GUWAHATI, March 15 - The prices of face masks and hand sanitisers have skyrocketed in the past few days as fear of coronavirus caused panic buying of these items.
�Several medicine wholesalers and retailers have run out of stock due to the sudden rise in demand of the two items. Some of the medical retailers have taken undue advantage of the situation and selling these items at inflated prices in a bid to earn an extra buck,� a medicine wholesaler of the city said.
�The sales have more than doubled. We are selling from the old stock as we are yet to receive fresh supplies,� he added.
To check hoarding and black marketing, the government on Friday declared face masks and hand sanitisers as essential commodities till June 30 under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, empowering States to regulate production, distribution and prices of these items.
However, there was barely any check by the authorities on arbitrary pricing with some medical stores selling filtered face masks at a price as high as Rs 800 apiece in the city, which were previously sold at a price between Rs 150 and 250.
Moreover, the retailers refused to give bills on purchase of masks as there was no price tag.
Black marketers have sensed a lucrative opportunity as the stocks are depleting. �We are getting a lot of customers for N-95 masks,� an owner of a medical store on the GMCH premises said. They are selling an N-95 mask at Rs 350, but the price tag is missing.
There is no confirmed case in the State so far. The government is making huge efforts to prevent the spread of the virus in the State.
In the meantime, Superintendent of Gauhati Medical College and Hospital Dr Ramen Talukdar told mediapersons that people can maintain personal hygiene by washing their hands with soap and by using the general mask.
�People should avoid handshakes and any kind of personnel contact for some time,� he added.
The government, the NGOs and other organisations have started holding awareness programmes on coronavirus.