Thai health authorities has announced eleven vendors have been arrested for selling surgical masks at over inflated prices in Bangkok. The greedy vendors hiked the prices of the surgical masks to profit from the new coronavirus.
Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit said the vendors were nabbed as part of a government crackdown on profiteering over the much sought after face masks. Saying surgical masks are now categorized as specially-controlled goods. Profiteers face a maximum of seven-year imprisonment and a fine of up to 140,000 baht, he said.
24-hour hotline to report profiteering of face masks or hand gel
The Minister also urged people who find face masks or hand gel being sold at unnecessarily high prices to report the finds via the 24-hour hotline 1569. Surgical mask manufacturers have also been told to urgently start shipping these products throughout the country.
Surgical-mask manufacturers are also required to provide supplies via government distribution channels. Such as Government House; the Commerce Ministry and to the 820 branches of the ministry’s blue-flag shops nationwide, Mr Jurin said.
As of Tuesday, manufacturers will supply 300,000 surgical masks for stalls set up outside Government House. Also another 200,000 for stalls at the ministry and 500,000 surgical masks for the 820 blue-flag shops, he said.
Thai Government selling surgical masks and hand-sanitizing gel
The minister said at least 10 major manufacturers of surgical masks have been asked to maximize production. The ministry yesterday began selling face masks and hand-sanitizing gel to consumers. Furthermore sales were limited to no more than 10 masks per person. The masks were priced at 2.5 baht each.
A large number of people had gathered at the ministry from 6am to purchase the masks. However when the stalls opened at 10am instead of 9am, the crowds booed in frustration, the Bangkok Post reported.
Meanwhile, Theerapat Prayurasiddhi, permanent secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office, responded to criticism about the face masks being sold at 2.5 baht per piece. When the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation (GPO) is selling them for 1 baht apiece.
He said the GPO was clearing out an old lot. He also said the price was higher because the cost of production had gone up. As for why some people were getting face masks for free, Mr Theerapat said the masks were only being handed out at places with high risk of coronavirus infections. Above all areas such as the skytrain and metro stations.
Distribution was also limited to one or two masks per person, he said.