CUTS Centre Coordinator Chenai Mukumba says a family of five needs K2,000 for reusable masks per month, which is too high for most families.
In a statement, Sunday, Mukumba appealed to government to find a solution so that low-income consumers were cushioned and protected.
“During President Edgar Chagwa Lungu’s second speech to the nation on Covid-19 he indicated that wearing masks in public would now be mandatory in order to curb the spread of Covid-19. As a result there has been an increased demand for masks and as such, a subsequent increase in their costs. At some retail stores, masks are going between K15 and K20 for a reusable mask. In order to use it correctly, therefore, the average person would need to spend a minimum of K15/day thereby having to spend K450 per month in order to adhere to the President’s directive. A family of 5 would need to spend over K2,000 on masks,” Mukumba stated.
“For most consumers, particularly low-income consumers, spending this amount on masks is not possible without severely disrupting their household expenditures. Further to this, as a result of the economy’s slow down, we have seen many consumers’ incomes jeopardized and some completely eradicated as a result of job losses. It is therefore imperative that a solution be found to this problem at the soonest.”
She noted that cloth masks had been proven to be less effective than surgical masks.
“While there have been discussions about using cloth masks as an alternative, these masks have been proven to be significantly less effective in spreading the virus than proper masks. Their widespread use therefore has the potential to put the entire population at risk. We are therefore urging the government to take the necessary steps to ensure that masks are accessible to and affordable for all, especially low-income consumers who are most in need of these masks. Making use of various fiscal measures could assist in this regard. We also urge the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission to increase their monitoring of retailers that are exploiting consumers during this time of need. Increasing spot checks and raising awareness of consumers’ role in identifying exploitative practices could assist in this regard. Lastly, we urge the private sector to come on board and start to domestically manufacture masks to increase their supply on the market and contribute to the decrease costs. We commend the manufacturers who are already doing so but further to this, urge the manufacturers to consider placing ‘recommended retail prices’ on the masks in an effort to dissuade retailers from charging prices that are too high,” stated Mukumba.