The government has declared face masks and hand sanitizers as essential commodities for the next 100 days. The move is aimed at stepping up efforts to boost supply and prevent hoarding of these items in its fight to check the spread of coronavirus disease.
The Centre has also invoked the Disaster Management Act to ensure price regulation and availability of surgical and protective masks, hand sanitizer and gloves.
Both masks (2ply & 3 ply surgical masks, N95 masks) and hand sanitisers have been brought under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, empowering States to regulate production, distribution and prices of these items and also crackdown on hoarding and black-marketing.
In a statement, Consumer Affairs Ministry said that the government has notified order under the Essential Commodities Act to declare these items as essential commodities up to June 30, 2020, by amending the schedule of the Essential Commodities Act 1955.
The decision will empower the government and States/Union Territories to regulate the production, quality and distribution of masks and hand sanitizers for smooth sale and availability of these items. It also empowers to carry out operations against speculators and those involved in overpricing and black marketing.
The government pointed out that masks and hand sanitizers are either not available in the market or are available with great difficulty at exorbitant prices, in view of the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19.