Police confiscate over a million surgical masks stockpiled for sale in the black marketThe confiscated masks will be available in the market for sale at regular prices in a week’s time, said the chief district office.
The Kathmandu Chief District Office has confiscated over a million surgical masks that were being hoarded to sell on the black market.
With rising panic over the threat of Covid-19, surgical masks have been in short supply across Kathmandu, leading unscrupulous actors to take advantage and sell masks on the black market at exorbitant rates, 15 times the market price in some cases. The Kathmandu Chief District Office has thus been running a market monitoring campaign for the past two days, confiscating stockpiled goods.
Janak Raj Dhakal, Kathmandu chief district officer, said that 804,000 masks had been seized from Satunagal from the house of one Rohit Shrestha while 106,800 masks were seized from Milanchowk in Kapan on Sunday.
“We have zero-tolerance for black marketing,” said Dhakal. “We will soon take these confiscated masks to the market so people can buy and wear them.”
The offenders will be punished under the Black Marketing Act, which stipulates a punishment of up to 10 years imprisonment and a fine, according to Dhakal.
According to Deputy Superintendent Hobindra Bogati, spokesperson at the Teku Metropolitan Police Range, six plainclothes police personnel been deployed to inspect and monitor the market for black marketing.
As goods confiscated from the market tend to take a long time to be processed, given the backlog at the courts, the Office of the Attorney General has issued a statement assuring the public that the processing of confiscated masks will be expedited and directing the Chief District Office to make the masks available in the market “as soon as possible.” Kathmandu Chief District Officer Dhakal reassured the Post that the masks would be out in the market in a week’s time.
Last week, the Department of Commerce, Supplies and Consumer Protection Management had fined four pharmacies in Lalitpur Rs 200,000 each for selling masks at higher prices.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of March 31, 2020
What is Covid-19?
Covid-19, short for coronavirus disease, is an illness caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, short for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Common symptoms of the disease include fever, dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
How contagious is Covid-19?
Covid-19 can spread easily from person to person, especially in enclosed spaces. The virus can travel through the air in respiratory droplets produced when a sick person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes. As the virus can also survive on plastic and steel surfaces for up to 72 hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours, any contact with such surfaces can also spread the virus. Symptoms take between two to 14 days to appear, during which time the carrier is believed to be contagious.
Where did the virus come from?
The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China in late December. The coronavirus is a large family of viruses that is responsible for everything from the common cold to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). After an initial outbreak in Wuhan that spread across Hubei province, eventually infecting over 80,000 and killing more than 3,000, new infection rates in mainland China have dropped. However, the disease has since spread across the world at an alarming rate.
What is the current status of Covid-19?
The World Health Organisation has called the ongoing outbreak a “pandemic” and urged countries across the world to take precautionary measures. As of Wednesday, Covid-19 had spread to 199 countries and infected more than 8,07,705 people with 39,456 deaths. In South Asia, Pakistan has reported the highest number of infections at 1,865 with 25 deaths. While India has reported 1,251 confirmed cases with 32 deaths. Nepal has so far reported five cases, in which one patient recovered.
How dangerous is the disease?
The mortality rate for Covid-19 is estimated to be 3.6 percent, but new studies have put the rate slightly higher at 5.7 percent. Although Covid-19 is not too dangerous to young healthy people, older individuals and those with immune-compromised systems are at greater risk of death. People with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, or those who’ve recently undergone serious medical procedures, are also at risk.
How do I keep myself safe?
The WHO advises that the most important thing you can do is wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol content. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unclean hands. Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces like your computers and phones. Avoid large crowds of people. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist for longer than a few days.
Is it time to panic?
No. The government has imposed a lockdown to limit the spread of the virus. There is no need to begin stockpiling food, cooking gas or hand sanitizers. However, it is always prudent to take sensible precautions like the ones identified above.