21:42 GMT24 November 2020
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    New Delhi (Sputnik): The Indian government set a price cap on sanitisers and masks after declaring them essential commodities in order to prevent them from being hoarded and maintaining easy access amid the coronavirus outbreak. The government has ordered its state units to produce medical kits and equipment at massive levels to fight any crisis.

    The price caps set by the Indian government over sanitisers and face masks are hardly being adhered to while the supply of the essential commodities remains scarce.

    The government has capped the price for a 200ml sanitiser at INR 100 ($1.34), the price for 2 ply (surgical) masks at INR 8 ($0.11), and 3 ply (surgical) masks at INR 10 ($0.13) until 30 June 2020. However, a check at different pharmacies across Delhi revealed that 100ml hand sanitiser was available for INR 130 ($1.74) to 150 ($2), while 600ml went for INR 500-600 ($7-8) .

    The least expensive surgical masks cost INR 30 ($0.40), cloth-based for INR 50 ($0.67) and N90 for INR 160-350 ($2-4.7). The government had also placed price limits on alcohol used to make hand sanitisers.

    Last week, Indian Minister of Consumer Affairs Ram Vilas Paswan said that with the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19), the Indian market saw a massive surge in the prices on face masks and hand sanitisers. Hence, the prices were capped under the Essential Commodities Act. The minister had asked the officials to ensure availability of canned items within the maximum retail price. 

    "We are not fixing the prices of such items. It is the suppliers/manufacturers who are fixing the price as well as availability", one retail owner who did not wished to be identified told Sputnik.  

    After the price hike caused shortages of masks and hand sanitisers, the government not only declared them essential commodities but the Public Sector Undertaking HLL Lifecare Limited began procuring masks and sanitisers for mass distribution. Besides this, state governments issued new licenses for the production of hand sanitisers to 125 distilleries and 910 other private producers by 27 March but these steps have so far failed to ensure the availability of hand sanitisers in the country.

    Following the government beginning to receive complaints about the shortage of these basic medical items, the country's drug regulator National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority asked state governments to ensure the availability of masks, gloves, and sanitisers for medical professionals and others. 


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