Medical masks have become a street commodity in the southeastern province of Van amid the coronavirus outbreak in the neighboring state of Iran where 15 people have died from the disease.
Bordering Iran, Van had five suspected cases of coronavirus in the past week and declared the regional research hospital a quarantine zone, but all patients tested negative.
While Turkey's Interior Ministry closed the Iranian border Feb. 23, the city is a frequent destination for visitors from the other side, especially around the spring celebration of Newroz where tourists visit to the point of booking the city out completely.
Street vendors sell the masks at 10 times their original price, asking for 10 Turkish Liras for masks that used to be sold for 1TL, 20 TL for masks originally sold for 2 TL or 3 TL.
Health authorities should establish preventative measures, risk groups and provide protective gear, Healthcare Workers Union (SES) Van Chair Sezer Ören said.
"Everyone is trying to take their own protective measures because authorities haven't made a clear statement. That's why mask prices are booming," Ören said.
Even though Ören says not all masks are protective from coronavirus, pharmacists in Van are happy with business.
Turkish Medical Association: Shortage near border
The Turkish Medical Association (TTB) had noted in a Feb. 23 press release the shortage of protective medical gear and that stock must be increased, especially for medical professionals near the border of Iran where the outbreak has infected at least 95 people.Turkish Medical Association forms coronavirus committee after Iran deaths
"The information we receive from the field is that health institutions are having issues supplying protective gear," the TTB press release said, adding that Turkey's health authorities should supply protective gear, starting at the towns neighboring Iran.
A shortage of medical protective gear has been a cause of concern for authorities worldwide since the outbreak in December 2019 with nearly 80 million people infected.
Iranian police seized more than 5.5 million protective masks hoarded by black marketeers in Tehran, the Islamic Republic News Agency said Feb. 25.