Dubai: No grocery shopping these days is complete without topping up a box of masks and gloves or a bottle of hand-sanitiser — essentials in the age of the coronavirus pandemic.
These items, once confined to the realm of medical professionals, have become staples on the weekly or monthly shopping list, or are purchased impulsively at the checkout counter, where these items now occupy a space of prominence.
Entire sections have been created for them in hypermarkets and they are the first displays to greet customers stepping into virtually every pharmacy. Even toy stores and corner shops today make sure a box of masks or gloves, or a bottle of sanitiser are within easy reach.
At home too, a space has been dedicated — the dresser or the kitchen counter — to keep these accessories handy. A spare mask or extra pair of gloves in the car has become commonplace too.
Prices have evened out to affordable levels since the initial shortages. It is now common to find a box of 50 disposable masks for less than Dh10 or a box of 100 gloves below Dh20 — almost five times lower than the highs months ago. Sanitisers are also much cheaper now, costing less than Dh20 for a 500ml container and below Dh10 for a 100ml spray.
Mohammad Omar, a British expatriate in Dubai, said he spent around Dh100 a month on masks, gloves and sanitisers.
“When the lockdown started, I used to spend around Dh100 on just one box of 50 masks. And they weren’t easy to find at first. The shelves used to be empty. Now prices have come down drastically and these items are everywhere. There are also many varieties and brands that have come on the market,” added Omar, 44.
For his household — four adults and three children — a pack of masks, gloves and sanitiser lasts around three weeks. He has bought reusable cloth masks for his children.
“There are family packs and combo deals to choose from these days. Some places even provide disposable gloves if you don’t have them when you enter. And complimentary use of sanitiser is quite common in most malls, offices, hotels and supermarkets. It’s all part of our new normal now.”
Sharjah resident Nausheen Shamsher said buying the items is a monthly errand for her, costing about Dh150.
“We get two boxes of gloves — different sizes each — every month. On an average, the cost for buying sanitisation items for a month is Dh150. At times, it pinches, but considering the current situation, there’s no stopping,” added Shamsher, from India.
“As we get them on a monthly basis, we have it listed on our grocery list every month. However, for all other in-between trips made to the supermarkets, if there’s an offer on any of these items, we don’t give up the opportunity to buy in bulk.”
She keeps the supplies on a table-top at the entrance at her residence “to ensure we don’t forget to use them whenever we step out”.
Another Indian expat in Sharjah, Farheen Matheranwala, said she also tries to “stock up if there is any offer”.
Like Shamsher, Matheranwala, too, ensures the items are placed where they are “easily accessible before leaving the house”.