Demand for face masks, hand sanitizers and Chloroquine have skyrocketed at the Onitsha Drug Market in Anambra, following reported cases of COVID-19 in some parts of the country.
In March 22, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) confirmed 30 cases, with two cases being discharged while no death recorded from COVID-19 in the country.
However, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the surge in the demand for these commodities has led to a sudden hike in the prices of face masks, hand sanitizers and Chloroquine by over 110 per cent.
A survey conducted around the market on Monday, reveals that Chloroquine, which was previously used to mainly prevent and treat malaria and sells for N5, 000, now goes for N12, 000 per 1,000 tablets.
The price of face mask has increased from N10, 000 to N150, 000 per carton while hand sanitizers rose from N300 to N600 for foreign products and from N150 to N400 for local products.
Mr Chimezie Okpara, a dealer in the drug market said Chloroquine had hardly been sold in the market following its ban for treatment of malaria by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Nigerian Government.
“But with the coming of COVID-19 and the pronouncement that the drug could be used for clinical trials of patients who have contracted the disease, the price has gone so high in the market.
“The price went up from N5, 000 to N10, 000 for 1,000 tablets and we don’t know what the price may be later this week, especially when the product is not much in the market due to an earlier ban,” Okpara said.
He disclosed that face masks were earlier exported to China when the country closed down factories due to outbreak of the disease.
“However, the price later came down and later went up from N10,000 to N150, 000 when Nigeria started experiencing Coronavirus and the demand for it from all over the country suddenly increased,” he said.
Okpara added that the price of hand sanitizers rose because of the sensitization by government on its preventive efficacy.
“People are scrambling to get for their families now; although, local companies have began production.
“The foreign ones sell for N600 as against N300 while the local ones are now sold for N400 as against N150,” Okpara added.
Another drug trader, Okwudili Maduka, expressed worry over the panic buying of the products, even when it had not been proven that the drug could cure COVID-19.
Maduka ascribed the sudden surge for Chloroquine to a broadcast by President Donald Trump of the United States of America and Director-General of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye that it could be used for clinical trials of COVID-19.
“The broadcast by Trump took place on Thursday last week and by Friday morning; it was something else in the market.
“People rushed to buy the medicine from distributors. As I am talking to you now, it is above N10, 000,” he quipped.