•Although no Kenyan has tested positive, globally, more than 80,000 people in about 40 countries have been infected with the new virus.
•With the high cost of the masks, Kenyans will have to dig deep into their pockets to purchase them.
Kenyans are rushing to stores to buy masks and hand sanitisers to avoid contracting the deadly coronavirus.
Although no Kenyan has tested positive, globally, more than 80,000 people in about 40 countries have been infected with the new virus, which emerged in December.
“We have customers daily coming to purchase masks , some say they are travelling out of the country while others are just buying to store them in case of anything,” said George Omondi, a pharmaceutical technologist at Goodlife Pharmacy CBD Branch.
He said the store had the N95 masks which are accepted globally and cost Sh 17,900 for a pack of 10 up from Sh 14,000 due to the high demand.
The normal surgical masks cost Sh3,000 for a pack of 50 at the store.
With the high cost of the masks, most Kenyans are unlikely to afford them and even those who can face rising prices with no cure in sight for the virus.
The masks are only effective for eight hours, forcing one to buy in bulk.
However, head of marketing at MyDawa Pharmaceuticals, Maureen Ondego says they sell the N95 masks at a cost of Sh4,100 for a pack of ten pieces.
"Due to the demand, we are also selling single pieces as well. Most people do not see the need to buy an entire box of 20 pieces. Single masks cost Sh410 and we deliver for free within Nairobi," she said.
"A box of ten masks would cost Sh4,100. We do deliver all over the country but we charge courier fees."
A spot check by the Star at Tuskys and Naivas supermarkets along Kenyatta Avenue established the two did not have surgical masks in stock.
They only have dust masks which are not really effective in guarding one from the virus.
“Surgical masks have not been in stock for the past month as we get them from China and the imports stopped coming in,” said Lydia, a pharmacist at Naivas.
Along the busy Accra road which is filled with pharmacies that sell at wholesale and retail, the case is the same.
“Hatuna masks (we don’t have masks),” said a busy pharmacist on the street when I inquired.
The pharmacies also import the surgical masks from China.
“My Chinese supplier called me to ask me to export the masks but my stock was already finished, if you need the masks just buy even at high cost,” said Charles Kamau, a pharmacist at Naipharm which along the street.
Thousands of masks are said to have been re-exported from Kenya to China.
There was an outcry last Wednesday when China Southern Airlines resumed flights from Guangzhou to Nairobi. This has since been cancelled.
Three African countries have confirmed cases of coronavirus that is Nigeria, Egypt and Algeria. The fear of the virus spreading to Kenya remains high.
Nairobi is ranked sixth among African cities whose populations are at high risk of being infected with the virus.
Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, has killed more than 2,700 people so far.