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Firm accused of importing ordinary masks and selling as medical masks

Original boxes replaced, sold at KD5.250 a box

KUWAIT CITY, June 28: What was repeatedly warned against in terms of the lack of personal medical protection tools in the local market and the weakness of government oversight has happened, as informed sources revealed serious fraud and manipulation of face mask prices and their quality under the pressure of increasing demand.

They explained, “A local company that owns a chain of pharmacies imports large quantities of ordinary masks that cost about KD 2.5 per box. However, they replace the original boxes with their own printed ones and sell the masks at KD 5.250 per box. Their boxes are being printed at a famous press company in Sabhan area at a cost of 30 fils per carton. In this way, the company is able to achieve a profit exceeding 100 percent of its market price”.

The sources warned that the seriousness of the matter lies in the event that these masks are used by front-line medical workers, which will undoubtedly expose them to COVID-19.

They revealed that the press had supplied about 130,000 cartons in the past few days to the company, calling for intervention by the relevant authorities to stop this health disaster, and to inspect and control the distribution of these masks.

The sources highlighted the lack of conscience and manipulation of the preventive tools that everyone desperately needs due to the spread of COVID-19, which requires urgent action to control those involved in this and to work on protecting consumers.

They said the seriousness of this manipulation lies in the poor quality of the masks, which may be used by front-line workers as medical masks when in reality these masks are of specifications that differ completely from the medical specifications and can thus contribute to the transmission of the infection.

The sources explained that the process of printing the outer boxes happens in a famous printing press company and costs 30 fils per box. The printing press company is involved in changing the information and supplying about 130,000 new counterfeited boxes in the past days to the company. At a time when the Ministry of Health is expected to launch several tenders for the purchase of protective tools, there are concerns about that company that supplies its goods to the ministry even though they can hard the front-line workers.

Even though the ministry is yet to purchase these masks, the risk remains, as some front-line workers buy additional tools for their protection during work. The private medical sector workers also purchase them for use while dealing with patients, which is a great risk to their lives if they deal with patients suffering from COVID-19 infection.

This matter needs intervention of the competent authorities to inspect the import certificates, review the number of medical masks mentioned in them and compare them with those in the stores to determine whether the quantities are identical or in excess of the number.

The sources urged the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to issue a decision to ban printing of mask boxes locally, similar to its decision that prevented printing of local stickers for sterilizers issued at the beginning of the crisis. They warned that the protective tools market is witnessing manipulations under the pressure of the severe need and increasing demand for masks, gloves and other such tools.

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