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February 28, 2020

Medical masks almost unavailable

Islamabad

February 28, 2020

Islamabad : Severe panic has gripped this region of the country after the confirmation of at least two patients positive for illness caused by new coronavirus that has been given official name of COVID-19, one in Karachi and the other in the federal capital while medical face masks are almost unavailable in markets in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi or being sold in black at much higher prices.

Both the two patients tested positive for COVID-19 in Pakistan have recently visited Iran that has been hit by coronavirus. The public sector hospitals in the region have started receiving patients with fear of having COVID-19.

According to Deputy Director at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences Dr. Waseem Ahmed Khawaja, the hospital received well over 20 persons on Thursday for examination who have recently visited Iran. The hospital has admitted four patients who are being kept under observation in isolation ward of the hospital, he said.

He added the PIMS has established a 10-bed isolation ward for keeping suspects of COVID-19 though if needed, the hospital may increase the number of beds. On Thursday, a tour operator brought few persons for examination at PIMS who have been to Iran recently. He informed the hospital administration that he would bring another 50 persons for examination shortly as they have spent days in Iran recently, said Dr. Khawaja.

A packet of medical face masks that was available for Rs300 to Rs400 last week in open market was sold for Rs1000 to Rs1400 on Thursday. Medical masks were not available at majority of medical stores in almost all markets in the region particularly in the afternoon.

We have been receiving huge number of customers demanding medical masks since Wednesday night and by Thursday afternoon, all the masks available at the store were sold out, said a salesman at a leading medical store in Rawalpindi. He said there have been reports that many a dealers have started hoarding the personal protective equipment and medical face masks for selling it at much higher prices later.

It is important that some experts doubt the efficacy of common face masks in stopping the transmission of illness caused by coronavirus in open environment as they believe that the infection spreads among people who are in close contact with each other. When an infected patient coughs or sneezes, the droplets cause spread of the infection.

Experts say that the mask may provide some protection but it is not the sole solution to avoid infection. They believe that the most important thing is to avoid crowded places.