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Before buying a mask

With COVID-19 becoming a pandemic, two items have been selling like hotcakes across the globe in the past four months,


Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  14 Jun 2020 5:25 AM GMT

With COVID-19 becoming a pandemic, two items have been selling like hotcakes across the globe in the past four months, these two being masks and sanitizers. There was a time when a mask – an ordinary cloth mask – was available with the pavement vendors for just ten or twenty rupees. Very few however had purchased or used N95 masks before COVID-19 had become a global scare. Same was the case with sanitizers – hand sanitizers in particular – which were hardly in use among the common people, while its use was simply restricted to hospitals and other healthcare institutions. But with COVID-19 becoming a global contagion with no specific drug to treat persons afflicted by it, people have been compelled to go back to the old saying – prevention is better than cure. But then, while COVID-19 dealt a severe blow to the economy across continents, one section of people has begun practising another old saying – make hay while the sun shines. Taking advantage of the situation, as also of the general ignorance of the masses, this section of unscrupulous traders and shopkeepers has been selling masks and sanitizers at exorbitant prices. Most people have been buying N95 masks in particular that are seen to be sold loose at prices which are quoted at the whims and fancy of the shopkeepers. Wearing a medical mask is one of the preventive measures to limit the spread of certain respiratory diseases, including coronavirus, in affected areas. However, as has been pointed out in the World Health Organization (WHO) website, the use of a mask alone is not sufficient to provide the adequate level of protection, and hence other equally relevant measures should be adopted too. If masks are to be used, this measure must be combined with hand hygiene and other measures to prevent the human-to-human transmission. As has been mentioned in the WHO website, with the current information available, it is suggested that the route of human-to-human transmission of COVID-19 is either via respiratory droplets or contact. Any person who is in close contact (within one metre) with someone who has respiratory symptoms (like sneezing, coughing, etc) is at risk of being exposed to potentially infective respiratory droplets. Given this backdrop, as unscrupulous traders, shopkeeper and drug-stores have begun selling masks and sanitizers at high prices, it is good to note that the Chemists & Druggists Association of Assam has made an appeal to the people to help in stopping the black marketing of sanitizers and N95 masks. It has asked the people to ask for a bill or a cash memo whenever they buy a mask or a sanitizer. The Association has also appealed to the people to immediately inform the nearest police station if any person/establishment is found to be selling sanitizers without bills. It is a fact that no shopkeeper will accept any responsibility for any product sold without bill, and many times such goods may not be genuine too. Moreover, the government too is deprived of valuable tax revenue in the current crisis period when the economy is at its lowest ebb. Meanwhile, a section of unscrupulous traders is also selling fake masks, thus putting at risk the lives of thousands of people. It was only a few days ago some vendors selling fake masks with a fake N-95 seal at premium prices were arrested in Bengaluru. The police also seized around 12,300 masks worth Rs 20 lakh, at the same time discovering that these persons had already sold fake masks worth Rs 1.05 crore. Such crimes are definitely being committed every day in Guwahati, Shillong, Imphal, Kohima, Agartala, or any other cities across the Northeast. It is high time the police swung into action. It is also time citizens play their role in lodging complaints against these unscrupulous traders.

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