Crises and emergencies are perhaps the best seasons for hoarders. Be it a shortage of commodities or nation-wide emergencies, and the greedy ones try not to let go of the opportunity. They exploit the situation to make some extra money without caring for people. The recent example of greed, as soon as the coronavirus hit Pakistan, is the sharp increase in the prices of protective and surgical masks.

The believers in capitalism’s much-sung mantra of profit maximisation have hit new lows by involving in the hoarding of N95 respiratory masks. Such practices in an emergency like the present one are not only unfortunate but also immoral. Nevertheless, the authorities’ swift response against those who tried to exploit the situation is appreciable.

But just apprehending the hoarders or imposing fines on them is not going to solve the problem. The N95 masks are not available in the market, primarily due to the hoarding practices. The government must ensure that the masks are available whenever and wherever people need them.

That being said, what happened over the past few days have confirmed one thing: the government is ill-prepared to fight the menace of coronavirus. Just the confirmation of two cases resulted in the shortage of masks. One can well imagine what people will do if the number of affected ones grow significantly. There is still some time left with the government to review its preparations against the attack of the virus.

Before anything else, the government needs to run a massive awareness campaign so that people know how they can protect themselves and others from falling victim to the deadly virus. Considering that the fatality rate from the virus is 2 per cent, this can be reduced further by taking all necessary protective steps. Vigilance is what the government needs not only against the virus but also against those who try to hoard the protective masks.