Amid coronavirus scare, surgical stores in Kerala run out of n95 mask stock

Druggists sought to allay fears saying steps have been initiated to source masks if things turn into a panic-like situation.

Published: 31st January 2020 03:16 AM  |   Last Updated: 31st January 2020 01:53 PM   |  A+A-

A nurse wearing a n95 mask at Thrissur Medical College Hospital

A nurse wearing a n95 mask at Thrissur Medical College Hospital. (Photo| EPS)

By Express News Service

KOCHI: Even as one case of Novel coronavirus has been confirmed in the state, the surgical stores in Kerala have run out of n95 masks. However, the All-Kerala Scientific and Surgical Dealers Association (AKSSDA) said that steps have been initiated to source masks if things turn into a panic-like situation.

"The n95 masks don’t have regular sales. These masks are usually bought by medical practitioners who want to protect themselves from infections while treating fever patients," said R Devadas, state president, AKSSDA.

According to him, at present only three companies manufacture masks in the state. "But only 20 per cent of their product is sold in the domestic market. Around 80% of their product is exported," he said.

He said the association will come to an understanding with manufacturers outside Kerala to source the masks if the situation demands. "We have talked to a company in Chennai and some in North India. However, we have to be careful, since we don’t want to compromise on the quality of the masks," he said.

According to him, people have bought out the stocks. "We think the demand might go up in the coming days since one case has been confirmed. But that is just an assumption," he said. Keralites have great resilience, he added. "This was visible during nipah outbreak," said Devadas.

"Even as we try to find good manufacturers to source masks, surgical store owners are forced to deal with fraudsters who try to dupe them," he said. According to him, calls are being received from people placing orders for 50,000 or more units of n95.

"However, further enquiries reveal that the packages are meant for China, Singapore and Malaysia. A bulk order of 50,000 units cost around Rs 20 crore. What actually makes the orders reek of fraud is that these are meant for the very countries which are leaders in n95 mask manufacturing," said Devadas. Devadas’ claims are backed by Johnson Joseph, proprietor of Cochin Surgical Supplies.

"We have been receiving enquiries for over 30,000 units. According to those placing the orders, the units are meant for foreign countries. We are not able to meet domestic needs, so don’t know how we will get these many units for people wanting to send it outside,' he said.


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