Many pharmacies around the country are feeling the pressure to keep their customers supplied with vital medical supplies while dealing with shortages caused by the continued spread of the coronavirus or COVID-19
By press time, 70 cases have been registered in Rwanda and according to pharmacists, the shortage of these supplies is partly attributable to the panic buying practice by their customers.
"We have a serious problem of lack of some supplies because of panic buying that followed the announcement that the virus had made its way to Rwanda," says Danny Mutembese, the chief pharmacist in Pharmacie Conseil.
These supplies, he says, include thermometers, cough medicines, face masks, hand gloves among others.
"Most of those who buy them in large quantities are in fear of coronavirus spread and how long it will remain in our midst. This is a big problem because most of these materials are needed by doctors in their day to day work," he adds.
In an interview with The New Times, Zubert Muvunyi, the Director-General of Clinical Services in the Ministry of Health explained that the shortage of medical supplies can also be traced to the countries where they are produced.
"Most of these countries have been hit hard by the coronavirus cases nowadays and hence they become a little bit greedy of medical supplies as they are in a strong need of them. Additionally, the shortage is due to the high demand for the supplies in Rwanda due to the coronavirus outbreak", says Zubert Muvunyi.
According to pharmacists who spoke to The New Times, most of these supplies come from Europe which is currently has the highest number of casualties from the virus.
Muvunyi however also stressed that the demand for those supplies has increased out of fear and panic of some citizens.
The New Times also talked to Dorine Munezero, a pharmacist at Pharmacie la Continentale at Kisimenti who expressed similar concerns concern.
"It is a common trend for all pharmacies. Because we get much of these supplies in Europe and with the high prevalence of the virus in countries like Italy, Spain, and France among others, the producers are prioritizing EU countries over Africa," she said.
Muvunyi said they had warned pharmacists to be cautious and not sell medicines and other supplies in bulk during this time of coronavirus crisis.
"We had warned them before to be mindful. How can you sell ten boxes of thermometers or cough medicine to one person at the same time? That is wastage, this was communicated earlier," he said.
In that way, Muvunyi recommends buyers to use private importers because they are still importing as long as the cargo flights are not cancelled.
According to Muvunyi, some importers are directly in contact with production companies that are not linked to governments, which he said can still give them the medical supplies they need.
Globally, over 720,000 people have been affected by the virus globally and the death toll stands at over 34,000.
Rwanda has not recorded any death from the virus and according to the latest information from the Ministry of Health, all patients are steadily recovering, with the first group of patients expected to be discharged this week.