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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Mask, hand sanitiser shortages anger people across Thailand



PHOTO: The Arabian Post

Across the kingdom people are rattled by shortages of face masks and hand sanitiser amid the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. Public demand has skyrocketed since the announcement of Thailand’s virus-related death. The Private Hospital Association says its medical personnel are being seriously affected by the mask shortage.

A new infection was reported yesterday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 43. The new patient is a 22 year old Thai woman who worked as a tour guide along with an already infected patient, a driver of foreign tourists.

A survey conducted by The Bangkok Post yesterday of drug stores in several Bangok districts, spoke to pharmacists and owners, all off whom said their stocks ran out nearly a month ago. They say they don’t know when fresh supplies will be available.

“We’re out of stock. We sold out of all kinds of face masks and hand sanitizers in the second week of last month.”

And it isn’t just Bangkok: throughout Thailand netizens are complaining on social media of masks being sold out. In northern Thailand’s Chiang Rai city one netizen said she had gone to over 20 pharmacies and all were sold out. She said they couldn’t predict when they would have new stock. Some netizens also say online retailers are exploiting the situation, advertising masks at exorbitant prices.

N-95 protective masks, which normally retail for 80-95 baht, are  being sold online for 190-220 baht apiece. Meanwhile, the simple green and blue masks, which cost 4 baht at most pharmacies,are being sold online at 15-20 baht each.

The government has  made face masks a price-controlled item, with a fixed price of 2.5 baht apiece. However few people can find them at that price. In reality, most people are paying 15-30 baht for each mask.

The Commerce Ministry has imposed heavy penalties on shops and sellers who jack up the prices of masks for a quick profit. So far, 51 people have been caught selling masks at inflated prices. They face up to seven months in prison and a maximum fine of 140,000 baht.

People who find any vendors selling masks at inflated prices can inform the Commerce Department on 1569.

SOURCE: Chiang Rai Times


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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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