Less than 24 hours after the news of Nigeria’s first Coronavirus case made the global headlines, owners of supermarkets and pharmacies are beginning to run out of stock following an unprecedented demand for personal protective equipment such as face masks, infrared thermometer and hand sanitisers.
According to the coordinator of Pharmalliance Network Nigeria, Mr. Adeshina Opanubi, the present cost of face masks in the open market has skyrocketed to N200,000 in the last 24 hours.
A pharmacist who declined to be named said it used to cost between N30,000 and N60,000 before the coronavirus incident in the country.
“In fact, there is no stock anywhere as we speak — no mask, no thermometer.
“We have even had report that some of the hand sanitisers being hawked around are fake,” Opanubi said.
Also, the New Heights Pharmaceuticals, Maryland, Lagos; HealthPlus Pharmacy, Ilupeju, Lagos; Vanguard Pharmacy, Ibadan, Oyo State; Lifestore Pharmacy, Festac, Lagos; and Olive Pharmacy, Ebute-Metta, Lagos, all confirmed the story of the commodities’ scarcity.
“They are out of stock,” the outlets told one of our correspondents on Friday.
The pharmacist in charge of Lifestore Pharmacy in Festac, Mr. Andrew Garza, explained that although several pharmacies had run out of stock for wholesale, his pharmacy was still retailing the ones he had in stock.
“I have also observed that in many stores, the prices are shooting way up because of increasing scarcity; however, we’re trying to keep our prices stable,” Garza said.
A community pharmacist at Vanguard Pharmacy in Ibadan, Mr. Taofeek Odukoya, told PUNCH HealthWise that, except for black market, both N-95 brand of face masks and infrared thermometers are currently not available in Nigeria.
“What we have in the country at the moment are the regular face masks and contact thermometers, which are still way out of reach anyway.
“Hand sanitiser is readily available because many of them are locally produced and their prices are relatively stable,” Odukoya said.
Reacting to reports of people hoarding and vending the face masks on social media, the pharmacist remarked that e-commerce and online vendors didn’t have inventories, alleging that they relied on what was available at the wholesale stores.
“The fact remains that we don’t have control over inventories and supply issues, since we do not manufacture face masks locally.
“Besides, we do not have evidence that face mask protects people from getting coronavirus. From what I know, it only helps the patient reduce transmission to caregivers.
“This week alone, Vanguard Pharmacy has received orders for 2,000 pieces of infrared thermometers. But, we could not service it because of the scarcity,” he added.
Odukoya revealed that the cost of a single infrared thermometer coming from United Kingdom or Europe, which sold for between N9,000 and N15,000 before Nigeria’s coronavirus case, now costs between N25,000 and N30,000 per unit.
Meanwhile, chairman of the Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria, Mr. Samuel Adekola, has attributed the high volume of demands for face masks to pressure from the Chinese agents and communities in the country.
“Anybody following the trend would know the scarcity did not just start in the last 24 hours.
“I will blame the Chinese communities for mopping up these products and shipping them back to the Asian country.
“Otherwise, how can we explain a single face mask that once sold for N20 before the outbreak being peddled around now for N300?
“With the way things are going, I wouldn’t be shocked to discover that the price has changed again next week,” Adekola said.
In the absence of face masks and infrared thermometer, the ACPN chairman admonished Nigerians to concentrate more on personal hygiene and maintain a distance of one to two meters in a crowded environment.
PUNCH HealthWise had reported an unprecedented boom in the demand for face masks four weeks ago. The demand saw a massive rise in price by over 271 per cent.
Also, there has been a sudden surge in the sale of hand sanitisers in various pharmacies in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, on Friday following the announcement that the deadly coronavirus has spread to Nigeria.
Some pharmacy operators in the state capital told our correspondent that the rush for hand sanitisers began in the morning, as they (operators) had hectic time attending to residents who wanted the product.
One of them, Chinenye, an attendant at Llyods Pharmacy located along Agip Road, said many persons streamed to their medicine shop to on Friday morning to buy hand sanitisers, adding that they sold about 35 small bottles of hand sanitisers in their stock.
“Initially, we were surprised at the number of persons coming to buy hand sanitisers. But when we got the news that the disease had spread to Lagos, we then realised the reason for the increase in patronage,” Chinenye said.
Another pharmacy attendant at Guzy Pharmacy along Ada George Road, said they had since run out of stock after the morning rush for the product.
At Great Activity Pharmacy, the operator, Mercy, told one of our correspondents that they had run out of stock, adding that the product was currently scarce in Port Harcourt.
She, however, said she would purchase more on Saturday so that she could serve her customers better.
According to her, the product became scarce after the news broke that coronavirus has been discovered in Nigeria.
A Port Harcourt resident, who identified himself simply as Chidi, said he had gone to about five pharmacies without getting the product.
Meanwhile, the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria has asked pharmacies nationwide not to increase the prices of face masks and hand sanitisers.
The PCN, which is a Federal Government parastatal charged with the responsibility of regulating and controlling pharmacy education, practice and training, said there was a need for pharmacies to put the interest of Nigeria first.
The Registrar of the PCN, Elijah Mohamed, said this during an interview with one of our correspondents on Friday.
He said the council had warned all its members not to increase their prices.
The PCN boss said, “We have appealed to our members not to increase the prices of masks and hand sanitisers so that the spread of the disease could be curbed.”
Mohamed said coronavirus gave Nigeria the opportunity of producing masks and sanitisers.
Speaking with PUNCH HealthWise, the Managing Director, NHC Pharmaceuticals Limited, Laide Soetan, said a Chinese firm had asked if she could ship about 100 cartons of the protective masks to China.
Soetan, who expressed surprise at the idea, said the client was also willing to pay for the shipment in dollars.
According to her, prior to the outbreak of Lassa and coronavirus viruses, a pack of 50 face masks sold for N350.
However, in the wake of the epidemic, an unprecedented heavy demand for the item had skyrocketed the price to N1,300.