NEW DELHI: The government has banned the export of surgical face masks, the textile material that goes into making the masks and covers along with ventilators and respirators as it seeks to ensure adequate supply of the critical materials at a time when the coronavirus count is rising in the country.
Following a meeting of the group of ministers, the ban was notified by the directorate general of foreign trade, sources told.
While India had banned the export of masks soon after the outbreak due to a surge in exports to China, it later on withdrew the curbs. But by that time the price had shot up in the local market. A surgical face mask which sold for Re 1 a piece just around a month ago was selling for around Rs 30 on Amazon.
The availability of these masks has become difficult with sellers accusing raw material suppliers of raising prices, resulting in higher cost for the consumer. In any case, there has been panic buying of these masks despite repeated assurances from the government that there is no need to sport them unnecessarily.
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By imposing a ban on export of the material used for making the masks, the government is hoping to make more supplies available in the domestic market and rein in prices.
In case of ventilators, given the respiratory problems associated with coronavirus, there is a spurt in demand globally with the UK asking companies such as Rolls Royce, Ford and other car companies to manufacture the critical care equipment that assists in breathing.
Although India imports a large part of its requirements, the government wants to ensure that domestic players do not end up exporting whatever supplies are available.