New Delhi: In the wake of nationwide coronavirus scare, the government on Friday declared masks, including N95, and hand sanitizers as ‘essential commodities’. These items will remain under essential commodities segment till June-end, a move aimed at ensuring availability at reasonable prices and cracking down on hoarders/black marketeers. Also Read - Ensure Masks and Sanitisers are Not Sold Above MRP: Pharma Pricing Regulator Tells States

The government has notified order under the Essential Commodities Act to declare masks (2 ply and 3 ply surgical masks, N95 masks) and hand santizers as essential commodities up to June 30, 2020. Also Read - Trending News Today March 11, 2020: Not Just Humans, Even Gods in This Varanasi Temple Are Wearing Masks Amidst Coronavirus Outbreak

The step has been taken in view of the “ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 and concern of the logistics for COVID-19 management, particularly during last couple of weeks, and that masks and hand sanitizers have been noted to either not available with most of the vendors in the market or are available with difficult difficulty at exorbitant prices,” said the government order.

An offence under the Essential Commodities Act can attract imprisonment up to 7 years.

Meanwhile, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) on Friday also asked states and Union Territories (UTs) to ensure that masks and sanitisers are not sold above their maximum retail price(MRP).

In the wake of the spread of the deadly virus, several states across India went into battle mode to contain the spread of COVID-19, shutting down schools, theatres and colleges, and many public events, including the IPL.

(With PTI inputs)