Thailand’s government has imposed a ban on exports of face masks to ensure sufficient domestic supply in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, the Central Committee for Prices of Goods and Services announced on 21 February.
Director-general of Internal Trade Department Wichai Phochanakit said that previously exporters were required to get permission from the Department of Internal Trade (DIT) for the export of 500 masks or more, however, some businesses have been dividing their shipments to less than 500 masks per shipment to avoid asking permission from the DIT.
Following that, the central committee has banned the outbound shipment of face masks which took effect immediately, Bangkok Post reported.
Those who have a large number of face masks have also been informed to hand in at least 50 per cent of their face masks to the DIT centre for face mask management by 21 February. Mr Wichai claimed that it is to ensure the proper distribution of face masks in the country.
“Anyone found stockpiling surgical face masks after this date (21 February) would be considered as being in violation of the law and face a maximum five-year jail term and/or a maximum Bt100,000 fine,” Mr Wichai noted.
Mr Wichai added that individuals who are traveling abroad can take no more than 30 face masks for their personal use, and only those with a medical certificate can take up to 50 face masks.
Furthermore, neighboring countries in need of face masks are required to contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs directly for their shipment request.
Thailand has reported a total of 35 coronavirus cases so far.
Taiwan extended requisitioning of masks and ban on exports
Taiwanese government announced on 13 February that it will extend the requisition of all domestically-produced face masks and maintain its ban on its export until the end of April, Focus Taiwan reported.
Previously on 24 January, Taiwan issued the ban on the export of disposable surgical masks which purportedly to due by 23 February, and scheduled the government requisitioning of the product from 31 January to 15 February. The measures were implemented to ensure sufficient domestic supply amid the coronavirus outbreak.
All commercial exports of surgical masks are banned, and the people in Taiwan are prohibited from mailing masks overseas. Those who violate the ban will be fined of up to three times the value and their masks will be confiscated.
Vice Economics Minister Wang Mei-hua said the measures will be revoked when the coronavirus situation improves.
Taiwan has confirmed a total of 28 coronavirus cases in the country so far.
Singapore has not issued any ban on exports of face masks
Singapore’s government, on the other hand, has not implemented any ban for the exports of face masks despite the country is being one of the worst-hit countries outside of China with 89 coronavirus cases to date.
In fact, the demand for masks was so dire that most retail stores were out of stock by mid-January, just after the first couple of imported cases were confirmed in the country.
The government has released more than five million to retailers, but they were “snapped up in hours” each time a batch of these were put up for sale over the past nine days, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said during a press conference on 30 January.
Following that, Minister of Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said at a press conference on 30 January that the country has enough face masks if the supply is managed “appropriately”.
The minister highlighted the three factors that determine whether there are sufficient masks in the country, which include the quantity of face masks in the physical stockpile, the usage rate, and the resupply quantum and frequency.
“We will have enough if we manage these three factors appropriately,” Mr Chan asserted.
During his meeting organized by the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI), Mr Chan claimed that no amount of masks will be adequate if everyone in Singapore starts using it every day.
He explained, “If every Singaporean uses a surgical mask, one day we will burn five million masks, if not more. Since we don’t know how long we got to fight this war and the supply line has [been] cut already, [we must] conserve the surgical mask to make sure our medical system can still work.”
Mr Chan further explained that the government’s move to hand out four masks to each of Singapore’s 1.37 million households on 1 February was for them to use in case they needed one but are unable to purchase a mask at retailers.
“This is not a set of masks for us to take, open immediately, use it to go to the hawker centre. These masks are to be kept in the household for members of our families who might get ill and need to access medical help,” said Mr Chan.
Cases of masks being exported out of Singapore
As there was no ban being issued on the export of face masks in Singapore, there have been several cases of face masks being exported out of the country.
On 2 February, Chinese singer Hu Haiquan, who is part of the soft-rock-duo named Yu Quan, has reportedly sent 160,000 face masks from Singapore to China in two batches.
According to a Weibo post by Haiquan Fund, he was spotted at Changi Airport with 40 boxes filled with approximately 80,000 pieces of masks to be delivered to those in need in his native country, China.
There were also 10 families boarding the same flight who helped Hu check-in several luggage bags filled with more masks.
In addition, Singapore girl group By2 posted on Weibo on 2 February about stocking up on medical supplies in Singapore for China amid the Wuhan coronavirus outbreaks.
By2 posted a photo that captioned, “…We promised to meet up after the competition, scour the shelves in Singapore and stock up on supplies. Hope that we can do our part to defeat the outbreak! #FirmlySupportingChina”.
Although they did not mention where the supplies will be sent to, 8 Days reported on 5 February that the supplies will be sent to Wuhan, China.
TOC also reported about the people who originated from Wuhan, China, bought 240 boxes of masks and other relief supplies to be delivered to their families and friends back home. The masks arrived in Shanghai in the early morning of the third day of Chinese New Year.
Based on the reports, those who sent the masks to China from Singapore did so with documents prepared by the Hubei Provincial People’s Government. The masks were dispatched to Wuhan city from Shangai.
There were also other nationalities who shipped back face masks to their own countries as observed in a Facebook post, showing monks from Sri Lanka checking in boxes of masks at Changi Airport.