Maputo — Mozambique's National Inspectorate of Economic Activities (INAE) has seized an unspecified amount of fake disinfectant gels sold in several formal and informal markets and online to unsuspecting clients, who believe what they are buying will help protect them against the Covid-19 respiratory disease.
The Ministry of Health has recommended that citizens regularly wash their hands with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based sanitiser. Some criminals have seized on this as a chance to make money by selling concoctions that may not contain any alcohol at all, and are not licensed.
The most recent seizure of fake disinfectants occurred on Monday in the Santos market in the southern city of Matola. INAE says it received further complaints on Tuesday morning about the fakes.
Speaking at a Maputo press conference, the INAE General Inspector, Rita Freitas, said the main problem INAE now faces is identifying who is producing the fakes, so that it can stamp the problem out at the root.
"The flasks of supposed alcohol being sold on the market are filled in somebody's house", she said. But those selling the fakes were not collaborating in identifying their origin. She believed that most of the fakes are sold online, through social media which carry pictures of the flasks.
70 per cent ethyl alcohol is an excellent disinfectant, and can indeed destroy viruses and other micro-organisms. But it can only legally be sold by registered pharmacies and not in markets or other establishments.
Freitas said that INAE is now checking the chemical compositions of the fake disinfectants. She urged consumers not to buy products that are sold in inappropriate places, and whose chemical composition is not indicated on the label.
Freitas warned that some of the fakes might be damaging to the health of the users, and could burn their hands.