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Islamabad administration arrested at least 4 people and recovered 35 boxes of various masks, as part of crackdown against hoarders and black-marketeers during coronavirus outbreak in Pakistan. Image Credit: DC Islamabad office

Islamabad: Pakistan has launched a crackdown on hoarding of masks and sanitisers after confirmation of 200 of coronavirus infection sparked panic buying.

In Islamabad, the administration arrested at least 4 people and confiscated 35 boxes of various masks, including the N-95 face mask. The police found masks worth Rs20 million, which would now be provided to the medical staff, according to the officials.

In the twin city, Rawalpindi, the city Assistant Commissioner imposed heavy fines of up to Rs30,000 over selling hand sanitisers at higher than the normal price.

Deputy Commissioner of Islamabad Hamza Shafqaat is also actively taking action on complaints shared by customers on social media to stop people from hoarding and price-gouging.

The Islamabad administration imposed a ban on hoarding of masks on February 27 at a time when only a few suspected Covid-19 cases were reported in Pakistan. The police and city administration is continually conducting raids against hoarders and black-marketeers as well as people suspected of price-gouging amid the coronavirus crisis.

The drug regulatory authority is considering fixing the price of masks and sanitisers and to limit the sale of items per customer to help the public.

Pakistani officials have urged the public not to stockpile too much as panicked shoppers in major cities of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad emptied supermarkets in fear of a lockdown.

The officials of Sindh province, which has reported over 100 confirmed coronavirus cases, have warned against stockpiling medical and food supplies. “I am surprised that people have started stocking up on groceries over the fear of a lockdown”, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah commented. There was no need to do so, he said, as the government “will not allow hoarding nor will close shops”. The grocery stores, supermarkets, and medical stores would remain open in all conditions, he assured.

In Punjab, the police registered cases against nine people over three days for violating section-144 placed to limit the spread of coronavirus. They were booked under various charges like holding marriage ceremonies in halls and large gatherings of 100-150 people.

Pakistan’s Covid-19 tally crossed 200 on March 17 with nearly 172 confirmed cases reported in Sindh. Most of those tested positive are pilgrims who had recently returned from Iran two weeks back.