A Beijing drugstore was fined a sum of 3 million yuan (S$587,965.20) by the Chinese capital city’s municipal market regulator for increasing the price of face masks at an exorbitant rate.
Reuters reported on Wed (29 Jan) that the regulator has issued an administrative penalty notice to the Beijing Jimin Kangtai Pharmacy for raising prices of N95 masks by nearly six times the online market rate.
According to China’s state television, the pharmacy had marked up the price of a box of 3M brand masks from the online price 143 yuan to 850 yuan.
The pharmacy’s case was one out of 31 cases involving exorbitant price hikes since last Thu, according to the regulator.
In a statement via its official account on Weibo, the regulator also said that it has instructed the pharmacy to to issue a refund to customers and dispose its unsold stock.
NTUC FairPrice extends face mask purchase limit to hand sanitisers, thermometers
In Singapore, local supermarket chain NTUC FairPrice in a statement yesterday (28 Jan) urged customers not to “hoard” face masks and hand sanitisers “as doing so will deprive others who need them as well”.
“We will continue to keep the prices of face masks, hand sanitisers and thermometers steady and make them affordable in our commitment to curb profiteering,” said NTUC FairPrice, adding that it will also continue to work with suppliers to stock more of said items.
Some consumers have appeared on NTUC FairPrice’s Facebook page to express their dissatisfaction with the shortage of supplies as a result of hoarding committed by certain parties.
Consumer Cindy Wong shared a photo of a long queue outside of the Simei branch of NTUC Fairprice Unity, noting that there is a limit of 10 masks sold at $2.30 and no availability of hand sanitisers.
She added that the consumers were told that the stock had came earlier at 10am, but was sold out. At 12pm, stock for the masks arrived, but unavailability of stock for hand sanitisers remained.
“NTUC unity is putting us consumers [in] a hide-and-seek game. They keep stock and only took out at random. Poor elderly folks queueing for it. Can someone from NTUC pls clarify,” wrote Wong.
Consumer Noreen Tan urged the Government to “consider to taking control over the supplies”, lest “some inconsiderate Karsu [sic – kiasu] citizens will over purchase n not bother about other ppls need[s]”.
“Why don’t they be the distributor n supply to ever household needs for free, like during SARS they also distribute to residents,” she added.
Sale of surgical masks in S’pore increased by “four to five times” prior to first confirmed case of coronavirus in the Republic
The demand for face masks in Singapore has reportedly increased even prior to the first confirmed case of the coronavirus infection in the Republic last Thu (23 Jan).
TODAY reported that the sales of surgical masks have jumped by four to five times since the start of 2020, according to data provided by pharmacy chains Watsons and Guardian.
Even online marketplaces have experiences a surge in face mask sales.
A Qoo10 spokesperson told TODAY that there has been a “steep” increase in the sales of N95 masks, with a 26 per cent jump over just two days on 21 Jan and 22 Jan compared to the beginning of the month.
Personal sellers have also been taking advantage of the exponential increase in the face mask demand, as seen by Mothership on Carousell, with a box of 20 N95 masks going for as high as S$288.
MOH, however, recommended the use of surgical masks over N95 masks, as the former “were designed to protect the surrounding environment from the user’s own spit or mucous”.
“Healthcare professionals use them (e.g. in an operating theatre) to prevent their own germs from infecting the patient,” said MOH.
N95 masks, on the other hand, are designed to filter out fine air particles, which may be more useful during the yearly periods of haze due to open burning.