Over the last few months, infections went down and this resulted in many people forgoing the use of masks
At this time last year, the Covid-19 outbreak caused mass panic and confusion, in turn causing mask prices to reach astonishing heights.
On July 21 last year, the government made the wearing of masks outdoors mandatory. Although that order was never lifted, law enforcement agencies have refrained from penalising people for the offence in recent months.
Over the last few months, infections went down and this resulted in many people forgoing the use of masks.
Now, after months of low infection and death rates, the novel virus seems to be making a comeback with a stronger and deadlier variant, but the demand for masks has yet to gain pace.
Street vendors and pharmacies seem to have a lot more masks to sell this time around, indicating better supply.
But the demand remains too low at the moment, removing any worries for supply to run out anytime soon. Many are unaware of the recent resurgence of the virus, while others simply turn a blind eye.
“As we are still selling old masks, the price has increased by a very small amount,” said Jasim Uddin, a retailer in Gulistan.
“We know people will come to buy those in bulk as soon as the government makes wearing masks mandatory again. But if we buy new stock of masks from wholesalers, we have to buy those at higher costs. Then we will have to increase the prices by a larger margin,” he added.
Visiting several areas in the capital, this correspondent found that most people were wandering outside without masks.
“What will happen if I wear a mask?” asked Sayma Rahman, a resident of Badda who was heading to her office in Gulshan.
“There is no benefit to wearing a mask; if Allah wants, Covid-19 will attack us even if we use masks,” she said.
"I am a strong man and a hard-worker; Covid-19 cannot do anything to me,” said Zakir Hossain, a middle-aged rickshaw puller from Rampura.
However, once the government issued instructions last week to wear masks and follow hygiene rules everywhere outside of people’s homes, mask sellers began raising prices.
But due to the low demand, the increases were very low.
At various shops in different areas of the capital, surgical masks were selling from Tk 10-15 per piece, which were Tk 5 per piece just a few weeks ago.
Ordinary cloth masks were selling for Tk 15-25, while those with designs were selling for Tk 30-60. Prices of these masks rose by Tk 5-15, according to traders.
A box of 50 surgical masks was selling for Tk 395 at a Lazz Pharma outlet in Rampura.
Popular Medicine Corner at Rampura Main Road was selling KN-95 masks for Tk 40 each and surgical masks at Tk 5 per piece.
The Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection, though vigilant, has yet to take any action as the price hike is still below the government fixed price.
In March last year, the government fixed the price of surgical masks at a maximum of Tk 30.
Recent Covid-19 tests have shown a rapid increase in the rate of infection.
Some 3,554 people were diagnosed with Covid-19 in Bangladesh between Monday and Tuesday morning, which is the highest number of infections registered by the country in a single day in eight months.
The country also recorded 18 more Covid-related deaths during the period, raising the death toll to 8,738.