ZIMBABWE could soon be facing an acute shortage of surgical masks and other consumables amidst indications of panic buying by Chinese nationals as they try to boost stocks in their home country in the face of the ravaging Coronavirus (COVID-19).
By Michael Gwarisa
China already has 150 new confirmed coronavirus deaths according to the National Health Commission, pushing the death toll nationwide to 2,592. Demand for surgical masks has been high in China since the plague was reported late December 2019, a situation which has seen diaspora Chinese stockpiling surgical masks
In an interview with HealthTimes, Pharmaceutical Societies of Zimbabwe (PSZ) president, Mr Portifa Mwendera said the price of surgical masks had drastically gone up and in some cases owing to the huge demand of the product by Chinese nationals who are currently buying large volumes and in some instances, shortages are already being reported.
What has been happening of late is that the price of surgical masks has been going up and in certain cases, shortages are being reported. This demand for surgical masks has been high of late and as you aware, China is currently buying from everywhere in the world to beef up stocks.
“In Zimbabwe, a box of surgical masks now goes for US$10.00 up from the previous US$3.00 for a box of 50 masks. This has affected the local market as the prices are now inflated,” said Mr Mwendera.
Hoe however added that should the country record cases of the COVID-19, then we there would be need to beef stocks locally so as to contain the diseases from spreading.
“As of now we can not say there is a shortage of surgical masks because we have not been affected by the COVID-19 as yet. Good thing is that we also get supplies from India.”
Chinese authorities have since appealed to other countries for help keeping a healthy supply of surgical masks available. It is however difficult to assign an exact figure to the number of face masks required, but they are used by civilians and medical staff alike.
Meanwhile, a medical and pharmaceutical supplier who spoke to HealthTimes on conditions of anonymity said Europe had inflated prices for surgical gloves by at least 500 percent.
“Chinese citizens mostly have been buying huge qty of stocks available and sending them to China because there is a shortage there already. Face mask main producers are China and India and as know with the effects of Coronavirus exports of face masks has been limited.
“The country doesn’t have a manufacturer of these items. There is no plan rather than buying from some suppliers in Europe who have inflated prices by almost 500%. We are selling them as single units no longer selling as boxes.”
There is also growing concern over the continued influx of Chinese nationals as well as Zimbabwe nationals getting into the country from Coronavirus affected areas. To date, a total of 3 375 Zimbabwean nationals have who have passed through Zimbabwe’s ports of entry since the Coronavirus are under what government terms self quarantine.