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Victims count the cost of fake hand sanitisers

by Staff reporter
05 Apr 2020 at 08:28hrs | Views
CROOKED traders are bilking consumers by selling fake hand sanitisers, raising fears cheated members of the public might be exposed to the coronavirus.

The global outbreak of Covid-19 has led to an exponential rise in demand for per­sonal protective equipment (PPE) like hand sanitisers, face masks and surgical gloves.

Established PPE dealers are fast running out of stock and finding it increasingly dif­ficult to replenish. Naturally, prices have been adjusted upwards. Pharmacies in the capital are selling a 125ml bottle of hand sanitiser for US$3 (or the equivalent in local currency).

Before the crisis, the same product used to sell for less than US$1.

Dodgy traders have since emerged to fill the gap with cheap yet fake products.

The Ministry of Health and Child Care believes that the country needs at least 2,3-million litres of hand sanitiser liquid to provide every citizen with 150ml of the liquid per month. Treasury has since disbursed $33 million to help universities that are manufacturing hand sanitisers and face masks to ramp up production. Most of the institutions are currently producing an average of 12 000 litres of hand sanitisers and 15 000 face masks per day. Sanitisers contain antiseptic agents and can be con­veniently used to cleanse hands when soap and water are not readily available. They offer protection by preventing or reducing bacteria, viruses and other pathogens that can cause infections.

Investigations by this publication estab­lished that an assortment of dangerous chemicals with a high concentration of ethanol are being packaged and sold as sanitisers. One such chemical is glutaral­dehyde or cidex— a potentially harmful liquid containing dangerous substances, which can cause irritation to the skin, eyes and throat if inhaled or swallowed.

As a disinfectant, it is commonly used to sterilise surgical instruments, among others. But backyard manu­facturers of the fake sanitisers main­tain that their products are genuine.

"The stuff is not bad. All com­ponents used are not hazardous. However, some of the chemicals we use are for manufacturing toi­let disinfectants, but again, that is not bad since they all act against bacteria or viruses," revealed the manufacturer, who declined to be named.

Victim shares ordeal

Unbranded sanitisers have noticeably flooded most high-den­sity suburbs around the country.

The products, however, are beginning to take a toll on some victims.

"I felt a burning sensation and irri­tation at night after spending the day applying a hand sanitiser I bought on the street. I then woke up the following day with my hand partially bruised and burnt," recounts Munashe Tanganai from Tynwald South.

Tanganai bought his 500ml bottle of "hand sanitiser" in the streets of Harare a day before the 21-day lockdown began.

His hands are visibly burnt and he says he is not the only one affected.

"I bought a big bottle, at bargain price, so that I could share with my other family members. My elder brother also com­plained after using it but his case is not as severe as mine," he adds. Doctors opine fake sanitisers not just come with a false sense of safety but can also have side effects.

"There are dangerous as these often have side effects on the human skin. Peo­ple are using sanitisers to get rid of viruses but if the product is fake, it exposes the user to potential harm not only from the virus, but also the dangerous chemicals used," said Dr Boniface Mariga, a pulmonologist and part-time lecture at a local university.

The law

Zimbabwe Republic Police spokesper­son Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said law enforcement agents were "work­ing with relevant authorities to protect citizens from unscrupulous traders".

"The public should feel free to approach relevant authorities so that police investi­gate and arrest these culprits."

The International Criminal Police Organi­sation (Interpol) last month arrested at least 121 individuals involved in mass produc­tion of fake masks, sanitisers and supposed coronavirus spray across 90 countries.

As a result, the public, according to the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ), have to be vigilant and report any suspicious cases. "The public needs to understand that not only unlicensed traders sell knock-offs, thus they need to be cautious every time. We urge them to report to us or the police any cases so that culprits are brought to book," said CCZ deputy executive director Mrs Rosemary Mpofu.

Expressing concern

A pharmacist, Mr Aaron Mutendi, said some industry players were trying to enrich themselves by taking advantage of the unfolding global health crisis. "It has always been the nature of businesspeo­ple to try and capitalise on a crisis like this one, but it is not the right thing to do," he said.

"There are dubious products on the market. (The) good thing is most of our consumers are aware. A circular has since been issued requesting consumers to buy masks and sanitisers from licensed deal­ers," said Mike Karimazondo, who operates pharmacies in various high-density sub­urbs in the capital.

Health experts say washing hands with soap is a much more effective method for disease prevention than hand sanitisers.

Scientists argue soap removes some microbes that alcohol-based products cannot.

Source - sundaymail

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