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Gov't to punish mask sellers 'disturbing market'

All Headlines 19:31 February 02, 2020

SEOUL, Feb. 2 (Yonhap) -- With demand for masks surging amid fears over the new coronavirus, the government on Sunday announced plans to punish sellers who disturb the market.

In a joint press briefing held by ministers, Food and Drug Safety Minister Lee Eui-kyung said the government is closely monitoring wholesalers and online retailers suspected of hiking prices excessively.

The government plans to promptly revise the relevant regulations to punish such sellers with prison terms of up to two years or fines of up to 50 million won (US$41,859).

To cope with a spike in demand for masks, the government said it plans to urge manufacturers to make a combined 10 million masks daily by running their factories 24 hours.

Manufacturers currently hold around 31 million masks in stock, according to government estimates.

"We will strive to make sure there is no problem in supply by maximizing factory operation and diversifying suppliers," Lee said.

As part of efforts to help curb the spread of the contagious virus, the government also plans to distribute 720,000 masks to companies that employee foreigners.

Mask sales have rapidly shot up across the country, with some offline retailers limiting the number of purchases per customer. Consumers have complained that some online retailers have excessively raised prices to increase their margins.

A woman looks at a mask on sale at a pharmacy in Myeongdong in central Seoul on Feb. 2, 2020. (Yonhap)

mlee@yna.co.kr
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