Counterfeit personal protective equipment, sanitisers and other health protective gear are flooding the informal street shops in the capital unchecked as the COVID-19 outbreak is getting worse in the country.
Some traders are importing poor quality masks, and manufacturing unauthorised and unhygienic sanitisers as the demands have skyrocketed over the last two months.
Health administration has also recently made face masks mandatory in public places, declaring highest Tk 1 lakh fine in case of violation.
Public health experts expressed fear that fake PPE and sanitisers might deepen the health crises as the authorities were not monitoring and regulating their sale properly.
Although personal protective gear includes masks, gloves, goggles or face-shield and full-body suits, but people generally understand the suit alone as PPE.
Ruhul Amin, director of Directorate General of Drug Administration, told New Age that they so far monitored and regulated PPE and sanitiser sales at different drug markets and could not focus on street sales.
He said that the police are supposed to carry out drives against these unauthorised trading in such spurious hygiene materials.
Medicine market of Mitford Hospital and streets in front of the hospital have become a major hub of the business as a number of traders have been selling these products on the streets.
Some street vendors said that they collect these products from different factories in Kamrangir Char.
PPE suites were seen being sold at Tk 200 and traders were asking Tk 500 for a piece of N95 masks and Tk 100 for a KN95 mask.
Hundreds of people buy these products from the street daily and many traders from different areas also visit Kamrangir Char area to procure these poor quality products in wholesale.
Public health expert and former director of DGHS Be-Nazir Ahmed told New Age that these unhygienic and unsafe protective gears and sanitisers pose danger for public health.
‘There must be strict regulations and monitoring on the sale of protective gears and sanitisers and on factories. People who are manufacturing these fake products must be punished,’ he said.
Fake PPE and sanitiser sales on the streets were also seen in different areas in the city, including Mohammadpur, Moghbazar, Mugda, Mirpur, Lalbagh, Azimpur, Hazaribagh and Kamrangir Char area.
Since the outbreak, many city hawkers became jobless overnight and were forced to turn to PPE and sanitiser vending.
When approached, Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection director Shameem Al Mamun told New Age that monitoring and regulating sales of these products on the streets is outside of their jurisdiction.
They were carrying out drives at pharmacies and medicine markets while it was the police who were supposed to conduct drives on street vendors selling such products, he pointed out.
Rapid Action Battalion officials said that during their derives they have found that some people were active in collecting used PPE and masks from different city hospitals and were selling them after washing and ironing them in Kamrangir Char and Keranignaj area.
A mobile court on April 25 conducted a drive at the Bhatara area of Dhaka and seized a huge cache of used PPE and masks. The mobile court then handed one named Monir Hossen with two years of imprisonment for the crime.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police deputy commissioner for media Walid Hossain said that it was not solely the police’s responsibility, rather all the concerned authorities can carry out drives.
‘DMP has instructions for its divisions to raid such trades dealing with unauthorised and fake PPE and sanitiser. The vigilance will be increased,’ he added.
Meanwhile, DGDA has filed two cases against an Awami League leader and his associates for importing spurious KN95 masks recently with Banani and Tejgaon Industrial police stations.
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