Sales of pulse oximeter, face mask, glove and sanitiser have risen manifold, taking advantage of which some traders have increased the prices of the health and hygiene safety products.
The trends were observed by this correspondent at Mitford of Dhaka where sits the country's largest market for medical equipment, Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA) Bhaban Market on Topkhana Road and several areas of the capital recently.
Importers, wholesalers and retailers say sales of the four products have risen by as much as 20 per cent. Sales of portable oxygen cans and portable ventilators increased slightly in March this year and returned to normalcy after the second week of April.
Pulse oximeter price variations are astoundingly wide, mainly based on the brand and quantity being bought. At wholesale it ranges from Tk 300 to Tk 1,400. In retail it is selling at anywhere from Tk 1,850 to Tk 4,400.
"Sales of many corona-related products increased significantly from March to mid-April. However, it goes without saying that sales of some products have gone down now," said Monwar Hossain, manager of Health Way, a medical equipment wholesaler, at Saad Golden Tower on Mitford Road.
"The sales of some products have started to increase and it is increasing day by day. There is no crisis of products in the healthcare market now. But if the corona situation worsens, there could be a crisis."
The first wave of coronavirus infections sweeping across the country in June and July last year was quite severe. The second wave started in March this year. This time the situation is worse.
Sales of personal protective equipment (PPE), oxygen concentrator, steamer, shoe cover, face shield, mop cap, hand gloves, goggles and ear plugs has come down 10 per cent, traders said.
On March 8 last year, the first case of coronavirus was reported in the country. The government announced the death of the first patient 10 days later. So far, about 761,943 Covid-19 positive patients have been identified in the country. Of them, 11,589 died.
"Although there is a demand for pulse oximeters, masks, gloves and sanitisers in the market, the demand for other products is very low," said Saidur Rahman, proprietor of Diamond Surgical in Mitford.
"The prices of some products have also come down considerably. I am selling some of those at a loss," he said.
"The nebulisers are not selling that much. In March demand for steamers increased but now it is very low," he said.
The BMA building wholesales and retails medical equipment and products.
"The products of various brands related to Covid are available in the market," said Ashraf Hossain, owner of Meditech, an importer and seller there.
"People are more aware than ever… (including) of the situation of the Covid crisis in India," he said.
Some traders also said sales of some products had declined as fears over coronavirus had subsided for many. However, government and non-government organisations are still pushing for compliance with health rules.
In several areas of the capital, drug and departmental stores have seen an increase in sales of pulse oximeters, masks and disinfectants while sales of other healthcare products were lower.
"The prices of some products also went up a bit. But now the sales of many products related to corona are low," said Hassan Raju, online in-charge of Lazz Pharma.
When the pandemic first surfaced in the country, a shortage of healthcare supplies arose due to abnormally high purchases and panic raging through communities. Prices were unbridled.
"Covid related healthcare products business is 75 per cent less than before," said Atiqur Rahman, Dhaka district president of the Bangladesh Medical Instrument and Hospital Equipment Dealers and Manufacturers Association.
"Business was good from March to mid-April this year. It has been declining ever since. However, sales of gloves, masks, pulse oximeters and sanitisers are quite good," he said.
"The product in demand the most was the oxygen cylinder. We have also sold oxygen cylinders at Tk 6,000 to Tk 16,000. Now a whole set (a cylinder and associated attachments) is available for Tk 10,000," he added.