This week, Boris Johnson is set to announce his plans for reducing the lockdown measures; opening schools and restarting the economy, but is the nation fully prepared to step away from the safety of their houses with the risk of fake PPE and tests entering the marketplace?
In early March, prior to the lockdown, you could buy hand sanitizer on eBay for about 50 times the normal price, £29.99 for a small bottle. If you wanted toilet roll, well that was more in the region of £1,000 for 16 “classic rolls”.
By mid-March, supermarket shelves were empty of some the normal essentials of our weekly shops – tinned food, pasta, eggs and bread. Panic buying had begun.
You could pick up your own ventilator online for £12,800 by the end of March and “10-minute Coronavrius test kits” for only £49.99, despite the antibody test only very recently being shown to be reliable.
As we begin to face the reality that we might now get to venture outside again, there is a new problem: should you be wearing a face mask or protective face covering? There is conflicting guidance.
The Scottish government recommend them, the World Health Organisation advise that only those with symptoms or those caring for those with symptoms wear them and the England, Wales and Northern Ireland advice is that face masks and coverings are not recommended. On 18 April, the Times were contacted by 100 doctors highlighting their alarm at face masks being recommended and how stocks might diminish for those who really need them.
As we have already witnessed, in the midst of a pandemic, rational decision-making can get pushed aside. Are we now going to see another wave of panic buying, hyped prices and fake products flooding the internet as this lockdown is lifted?
Medications, personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing kits bought online from unregistered websites can be dangerous to your health. They might be fake, out of date and even poisonous. Taking a medication bought online, using a fake test kit, or wearing fake PPE and then believing you are immune from COVID-19 is dangerous for everyone.
But we all want to keep ourselves, our loved ones and our communities safe. Here is, hopefully, a helpful quick guide:
- Coronavirus test kits can only be sold by medical professionals.
- PPE should have a CE marking and should only be purchased from a reliable source where the manufacturer and origin of the product can be traced.
- Chloroquine (the anti-malaria drug) has not been proven to prevent or cure COVID-19.
- If it looks and sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.
And though it should not need to be said, if you are making the return to a life outside of lockdown, please do not inject yourself with bleach.
Written by Tamlin Bolton