Each day is bringing news of the rising number of confirmed cases and tragic fatalities arising from the Coronavirus pandemic. Understandably this has brought about a huge sense of distress, worry and uncertainty.
People are living in fear of a substantial threat to their health and safety, but they are also anxious about the economic effects this pandemic will bring.
Since the outbreak of this health crisis, reports have emerged of obscene price rises of essential medicines, masks and hand sanitiser. In some countries, the cost of basic over-the-counter medicines such as aspirin, ibuprofen and paracetamol has risen by up to 30%!
In recent weeks, Aspar Pharmaceuticals, a major supplier of pain relief medicines to chemists and supermarkets in Europe demanded a 20% price increase on its aspirin and paracetamol.
Many online selling sites are still facilitating price gouging and profiteering. Earlier this month the Financial Times pointed out how: “a pack of 20 masks made by manufacturer 3M, but sold by an unauthorised reseller, was on sale at $387, compared to a normal retail price of around $14.99.” In many areas things have gotten even worse in recent weeks.
Social media is still full of photos of shops that have been selling small bottles of hand sanitiser for exorbitant prices. These examples prove that “the hidden hand of the market”, that capitalism is supposedly founded on – where human wants and needs are matched – is an absurd joke.
Immediate price caps should be introduced on all essential medicines, face masks, hand sanitiser and foodstuffs. We need to immediately cut across all profiteering arising from the Coronavirus pandemic.
Democratically elected committees of workers in the retail sector, trade union representatives and consumers should be set up to ensure that price controls are rigidly enforced. Any businesses that refuse to comply should be brought in to public hands so that production, distribution and prices and be properly controlled.
By Socialist Action reporters