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Masks, hand sanitizers declared 'essential commodities'; government likely to cap prices

The sudden rise in COVID-19 cases in India has not only shot up prices of medical masks and hand sanitizers, but the domestic market is now flooded with sub-standard and low-quality products.

Published: 13th March 2020 09:06 PM  |   Last Updated: 13th March 2020 11:24 PM   |  A+A-

hand wash, sanitizer, masks

For representational purposes (Photo | Pexels, EPS)

By Express News Service

New Delhi: The Centre on Friday brought masks (such as N95 and few others) and hand sanitizers under the 'essential commodities' after complaints from an industry body about hoarding by distributors and attempts at profiteering in the wake of coronavirus outbreak.

The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, food and public distribution on Friday said that the there have been reports that masks are either “not available with vendors in the market or are available with great difficulty at exorbitant prices.”

The order says that these items will now be categorized as essential commodities till June 30—allowing the government to cap their prices and also empower states to regulate their production and distribution.

Earlier the Association of Medical Device Industry had written to the Centre saying that due to the ongoing coronavirus related crisis and supply chain disruptions and the sudden rise in COVID-19 patients in India, not only have the prices of medical masks and hand sanitiser shot up, the domestic market is now flooded with sub-standard and low-quality products.

“There are unethical forces at work playing with the market and creating artificial shortages and thus giving a bad name to many of the sincere anufacturers, some of whom are contacting AIMED with their concerns on the falling standards of quality & safety as there is sudden mushrooming of unorganized Manufacturers like a Cottage Industry leading to an extreme hikes in pricing, low quality products, shortages, and reports of profiteering,” AIMED had said.

It also said that many of the “ethical distributors and resellers have discontinued selling Masks & Sanitizers as they do not wish to be labelled as being unethical and exploitative."

AIMED estimates the monthly manufacturing capacity to be over 20 million masks per month based on data collected from 26 manufacturers of masks who had responded and shared data with a spare capacity indicated in second week of February of 5 million pieces.

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