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S. Korea toughens monitoring against hoarding of protective masks

All News 14:49 February 06, 2020

SEOUL, Feb. 6 (Yonhap) -- South Korea said Thursday it will toughen monitoring against hoarding of protective masks and hand sanitizers as the new coronavirus outbreak has sparked a sharp rise in demand.

The central disaster headquarters said it is pushing forward measures to mandate that manufacturers and wholesalers of facial masks and hand sanitizers report to the government before shipping or selling their products.

Under the planned measures, all manufacturers have to report to the government every day on the amount delivered in the domestic market as well as the export amount to the overseas market.

"Stern judicial actions will be taken against those who commit illegal activities such as failing to report or falsely reporting the amount through a pan-government crackdown," Kim Gang-lip, deputy head of the central disaster headquarters, said in a briefing.

A sign at a mask counter at a retail outlet in Seoul informs customers of a purchase limit of 10 masks per person amid the escalating coronavirus crisis on Feb. 4, 2020. (Yonhap)

The measures come amid heightened concerns over prolonged shortages of the products, with some business owners being fined for their unfair business practices.

The government has said that market manipulation of protective masks, such as price rigging, will be treated as an administrative and criminal offense.

The supply of facial masks has fallen far short of demand due mainly to hoarding of protective goods in anticipation of higher prices, with industry watchers blaming Chinese tourists and merchants for going on a buying binge here to protect themselves from the coronavirus.

The new coronavirus was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in mid-December last year. South Korea confirmed four more cases of novel coronavirus infections, bringing the total here to 23, as of early Thursday.


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