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Only one in two pharmacies is operational

Only one in two pharmacies is operational

“I have an eye problem and need an eye drop regularly but my chemist is unable to deliver it as the medicine has gone out of stock,” a resident of 24 Parganas in West Bengal said. The story is not very different in another part of the country in Gurgaon. “I have been having a particular brand of medicine for cholesterol and blood pressure but now I am not finding it at my local chemist. I have had to order it from another pharmacy,” a senior citizen, living on Sohna Road in Gurgaon, said.

Forget grocery items; even the supply of certain “non-essential” medicines is thinning in various corners of India. There are about 10 lakh shops selling medicines in the country. Of these less than 50 per cent are operating. The rest have either shut down for a few days or are operating for a shorter period of time because of the 21-day lockdown.

Praveen Khandelwal, secretary general, Confederation of All India Traders, said that due to problems relating to transportation and logistics, there are regular delays in delivery of medicines from factories to wholesalers and then from wholesalers to the retail shops.

While medicines come under essential services and pharmacies are exempt from the lockdown, many shopkeepers have complained that issuance of passes for free movement during this period has not been easy. While the bulk of the supply is directed towards hospitals and nursing homes, the supplies to the smaller pharmacies have been irregular.

Shopkeepers said that they have advised their regular customers to place their orders much in advance so that they had ample time to source the required drugs.

Delivery at doorsteps has also become a problem due to lack of manpower after a large part of the labor force returned to their native homes following the nationwide lockdown. This has particularly created problems for the country’s elders who live on their own without any support.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a nationwide lockdown on March 24 to contain the rapid spread of the deadly coronavirus. Sources said that the lockdown, which was supposed to be lifted on April 14, may now continue at many parts of the country with the number of COVID-19 cases rising significantly in the last four-five days..