The Thai government on Tuesday made face masks and hand sanitizers price-controlled products in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak and nationwide PM2.5 air pollution problem.
Thai cabinet passed the Commerce Ministry’s proposal banning surgical masks and hand sanitizers from being sold above recommended retail prices.
The move comes after Thailand’s Prime Minister had earlier dismissed earlier reports that masks were running low. And those that were available are being sold at high prices.
“If the price of face masks is very high, call a hotline so we can make arrests. But be careful if your claims are groundless,” he said.
However upon being made aware that packs of masks were being sold for 450 baht, Gen Prayut said: “They are definitely expensive at 30-40 baht per piece. Normal surgical masks cost no more than 5 baht.
“Why don’t these stores buy from factories which can produce a million pieces? How can you say your supplies are running out when you don’t buy them?” he said.
Meanwhile despite the Thai PM’s claims there are enough face masks to go around in Thailand, many pharmacies and stores have reported being sold out. The ones that do have stock have limited purchases to 2 face masks per person.
Masks sold out and price gouging
The Bangkok Post on Tuesday surveyed shops selling face masks and spoke to owners and staff who all said their stocks had run out amid the coronavirus outbreak and air pollution. The found some retailers selling a 50-piece box of green face masks for 350 baht, up from 250 baht. One drug store was also found selling green face masks at 20 baht apiece.
The owner of another large pharmacy said green face masks and N95 masks are out of stock indefinitely. The N95 masks are imported from different places, such as China, South Korea and Japan. The green ones are made locally.
You can buy them, but the price is rising due to hoarding. The wholesale price of a green mask is no more than 2 baht, but has now gone up to 7 baht and sometimes 20 baht apiece,” he said.
The lack of supply is also an issue in northern Thailand. Thai and tourists have complained to retail outlets after finding stocks of face masks sold out. Many retailers of face masks in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai are sold out of masks. Especially areas where Chinese tourists are common.